Breast Health Statistics Hit Home – Literally

Tom Zimmerman

Breast health can be a sobering topic.

About 1 in 8 women in the U.S.A. will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of their lifetime1.

That simple metric hit home in startling fashion last fall. My sister-in-law bravely made her way through several rounds of chemo therapy and beat recovery odds after being diagnosed with a fast moving, triple-negative breast cancer. She is one of seven sisters in the family, who together with my mother-in-law total eight women. We all roller coasted through the initial shock, dread and then relief of her now positive outcome. She is still considering additional preventative surgery.

1 woman in 8 – in our family.

That got my attention. Guys probably don’t think about this as much as we ought to. I do work with breast imaging applications and clinical workflows as part of my marketing role here at GE Healthcare. I’m grateful that our collective GE Healthcare team has developed an adaptable portfolio of technologies and services to help clinicians serve the personalized breast health of their patients. This complements collaborative efforts made by thousands of other people and organizations to build awareness and improve breast health outcomes.

Shortly after hearing a positive update on my sister-in-law’s progress last month, I attended the Centricity LIVE Conference in Phoenix, AZ. Rob Lowe was a keynote speaker. It turns out that he is one of those thousands of people taking a very active role to bring more awareness to breast health.

During his Centricity LIVE keynote, Mr. Lowe candidly shared some very personal insights about his own family history. His great-grandmother, grandmother and mother all died from breast cancer. Breastcancer.org1 points out that a woman’s breast cancer risk can possibly double once a first degree relative (mother, sister, daughter) has been diagnosed.

With my sister-in-law already diagnosed, that increased the risk beyond the statistical 1 woman in 8 for our own family.

When my wife told me about the lump in her breast two weeks ago, statistics didn’t matter of course. We needed real answers and were relieved to get a very fast response from our local care team. They immediately brought her in for a digital breast tomosynthesis (DBT) scan. One day later they drained a “suspicious” cyst and took several biopsy samples. One day after that we received the benign (no cancer) results with a recommendation for surgical follow-up to remove the cyst and test it again – just to be sure.

It’s a sobering topic. But there is hope, and there is a widely shared resolve to improve future outcomes.

I admire my sister-in-law’s indomitable spirit and the way she required all of us to “keep it normal” throughout her months of treatments. The way Rob Lowe responded to his own family loss with a commitment to outreach. And just last week, the way my wife took our 34th anniversary in stride as we headed to the local cancer center together for her appointments.

I know there are thousands of other stories out there, both heartbreaking and inspiring – please share yours if you think it could help a fellow reader here. And please accept my encouragement.

1Statistics as reported on

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