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Word Nerd

Early detection does save lives

I recently had a mammogram. It was a simple enough procedure, took about 10 minutes out of my time, not including travel, and was (mostly) painless. I got the results yesterday, and they were thankfully normal. In short, I don't have breast cancer.

That's not the case with a well-known on-line personality. Her name is Xeni Jardin, and she is co-editor of a popular online weblog called "Boing Boing", which describes itself as a directory of wonderful things.

Jardin went to have her first mammogram a couple of weeks ago at the age of 41 after two of her friends were diagnosed with breast cancer. Because she is a techie through and through, Jardin used Twitter to update her friends, family and other interested people on the process as she went through it. Said Jardin, "I decided the experience of getting a mammogram would be less scary if I tweeted about it, mocked it, or turned it into a game."

She described choosing the clinic, talking with the front office staff, and said, "I'm really hoping this involves lasers. And cats."

She kept up the tweets through the process, saying, "The hard part about this is the not knowing. I may be able to get results right away, would be great. They do digital here."

Through Twitter she described the process as like a TSA screening but with more pink and nice ladies and said she would have a three-hour wait for her results.

My own results came a few days later, although Sunnyside Community Hospital has gone digital. Someone still needs to examine the imagery to determine if there is anything to re-check.

For Jardin, she went back after three hours and posted this to Twitter, "I have breast cancer. I am in good hands. There is a long road ahead and it leads to happiness and a cancer-free, long, healthy life."

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force believes mammograms should start when a person turns 50, the American Cancer Society and Mayo Clinic say women should start getting annual exams at 40.

I started at 37, mostly because I'd already had one false positive and wanted to be sure I was cancer-free. If Jardin had waited, the cancer would have had much more time to do damage. There isn't any point in wondering if it would have been better if she'd gone earlier.

The decision is up to each woman, but I know that I would much rather be certain than to wonder, and having a mammogram will help lay fears to rest.

Or, if you are one of the roughly 12 percent of women who will develop breast cancer during their lifetimes, knowing will give you a fighting chance.

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