Add 'self breast examination' to the Alberta CALM 20 program of studies

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The impact of breast cancer (b/c) on our society is extreme. 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with b/c in their lifetime. Although the average age of diagnosis is 66, a small, but meaningful, number of women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their 20s, 30s, 40s and even in their teens. There are about 30,000 new cases of breast cancer a year in Canada and about 3% will be in people under forty.

I am a thirty five year old Alberta resident with a university education in biology and education. I taught High School for several years, including Career and Life Management (CALM) 20. Despite many years of education, I had no idea how to perform a self breast exam and was unaware of the risk of developing cancer at a young age.  Seven months after having my daughter I was diagnosed with stage three breast cancer.  Instead of properly enjoying my time with my daughter I underwent eight months of devastating and grueling treatment. 

Any stage of breast cancer can metastasize (even many years after treatment), but it is still advantageous to find b/c earlier via mammogram. Cancers found at earlier stages are less likely to return. One in three cases of breast cancer will metaticize. Metastatic breast cancer is deadly and those diagnosed with it live on average 3 years.  Young women do not get to benefit from the protection of mammograms, and therefore the first sign of breast cancer is usually found by performing a self breast exam. Despite this, young women are never shown how to perform a self breast exam, nor are most aware that they can develop breast cancer at a young age.

If I had been taught about my risks, how to properly perform a self breast exam, and what cancer can feel like, I could have caught my cancer much earlier.

Adding this important topic to the Career and Life Management Curriculum has the potential to SAVE LIVES. Alberta Education please add this important topic to CALM 20 so other young people understand their risks and can protect themselves from a diagnosis like mine.