This article was originally published in October 2012.
“Fear can literally kill you. It killed Kristen. Knowing is better than not knowing. Don’t let fear sway you from getting screened.”
Seven years ago, at the age of 32, my best friend, Kristen Martinez, was diagnosed with stage IV metastasized breast cancer. She fought this disease for 5 years, but she lost her battle and passed away 2 years ago.
After her diagnosis and before succumbing to this scourge, Kristen became a vocal and passionate patient advocate for the millions of other women out there who, just like her, are underinsured.
Kristen serves as my inspiration day-in and day-out to advocate the importance of screening and early-detection and expand awareness about breast cancer, particularly among young women and women of color. There are just so many women out there who do not have the funds or are too fearful about what they may learn that they do not get screened.
Early detection leads to early treatment, which saves lives. Due to the research and treatments that are funded from organization like Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the five-year survival rate for breast cancer, when caught early before it spreads beyond the breast, is now 99% (compared to 74% in 1982).
Women in their 40s who are diagnosed early have a 15% lower chance of dying from breast cancer. These numbers are even more disturbing for women of color, who are less likely to develop breast cancer, despite a 39% higher mortality rate than white women.
Among African-American women, breast cancer is the most common cancer and is the second leading cause of cancer deaths. We do not yet know why this is the case, but in the past 4 years Komen has invested $2.3 million to support projects that are seeking to understand these issues and create solutions at the community level.
Earlier this year, I took part in Komen’s Global Race of the Cure to raise money and awareness for the vital programs that Komen supports. We all must do everything we can to ensure that women, just like my friend Kristen, are able to get the treatments they so desperately need.
Read other impact stories here.