BY: Sarah Cawley, PA-C, IFMCP Co-Founder of Practical Healing
the seasonal return of the pink ribbon
October: every year it brings mixed feelings. Fall? Yes, please! But the pink ribbons emerge and it seems that the reminder of Breast Cancer is everywhere. This can be particularly difficult if you’re a survivor, like me.
October is a reminder that breast health should remain at the forefront of everyone’s mind. At the time of my diagnosis, I was 32 years old. Far “too young” for cancer. When I first went to the doctor with a lump, the mammogram was clear. My children were so little, and I was a busy mom working full-time, so I took the advice of my doctor and scheduled a follow-up. Nine short months later, after the lump had grown, I finally received a biopsy and diagnosis. Unfortunately, by this time, the cancer had spread to my lymph nodes. As a medical provider myself, I know that my surgeon was following the “guidelines” for biopsy. Conservative treatment (avoiding chemo) and some surgical options (for reconstruction) were much more limited.
Early diagnosis is the key to survival in breast cancer and provides the patient with the best treatment and surgical options. Mammograms are currently the best tool for screening that we have for early detection. Unfortunately, I hear from so many of my female patients that they are afraid to get a mammogram.
a new screening option for breast health
As a survivor, I understand their fear intimately. I regret not advocating for myself during that anxious nine-month period; the lack of alternative testing methods of detection and better tools to help guide women’s decisions to get a mammogram has been a constant frustration ever since. Enter Auria.
I learned of this tear-based breast cancer screening earlier this year and knew immediately that I wanted to be able to offer this type of testing to our patients. A non-invasive method of testing, using the power of a person’s own tears, Auria screens for inflammatory proteins that indicate risk for breast cancer. The test result places patients in either a high-risk or a low-risk category. The test also includes a consultation with a breast health specialist who can help explain the results and guide the next steps. In addition to regular monthly breast exams, Auria is an excellent tool for a woman interested in advocating for her breast health. After almost 10 years of wishing there was more we could do, Auria has stepped in to help solve this problem, and I couldn’t be more grateful!
my diagnosis brought me practical healing
The pink ribbons can be difficult reminders of the dear friends I have lost, the trauma that I endured during treatment, and the fact that breast cancer has affected my family. However, it’s also a reminder that often, the most difficult of life’s challenges can serve as the platform for change. Breast cancer was my catalyst for learning more about what it means to be truly healthy—body, mind, and spirit.
My diagnosis prompted my functional medicine certification and taught me what life was like on the other side of the exam table, as a patient rather than a provider, making me fiercely protective of the patient experience. My experience is a part of the story of Practical Healing and the care we provide to our patients. For this reason alone, I can hold space for gratitude and purpose in the most difficult memories.
PS- Auria testing is not a replacement for a screening or diagnostic mammogram. Please consult with your provider to discuss what options are available for you.