Women's Health

Mother and Daughter Diagnosed with Breast Cancer: Comparing Care

Mother and Daughter Diagnosed with Breast Cancer: Comparing Care

There is no relationship like that between a mother and daughter. Mothers often describe their first moments when they look at their newborn children as “love at first sight.” It is not uncommon for mothers to raise their daughters by teaching them about life through their own personal experiences. But one experience they hope they never have to share is breast cancer.

For Charlene Kendrick, this would end up being the reality. In 1975 at the age of 29 she was diagnosed with breast cancer. At the time she was a single mother of her 9-year-old daughter, and all she knew was what the doctors told her. Compared to breast cancer information now, they knew far less in the 70s. When Charlene was diagnosed, they were not even able to stage her cancer.

For treatment they ultimately did a modified radical mastectomy and told her what precautions to take. She had to relearn how to use her left arm after the surgery, and now reports feeling like she was living in the dark because there was just no information that she could hold on to.

Her daughter's diagnosis

Thirty-six years later, Charlene’s daughter Monica was diagnosed with Stage I breast cancer. Though still a scary diagnosis, Monica at least was surrounded by information and support. With the internet, she had infinite resources. She could google breast cancer and come up with information and organizations that could keep her reading for days. Extensive support networks also existed in the local community. Almost everyone knows someone affected by breast cancer, so Monica could reach out to her friends. The church community was another resource she could leverage. Monica also had access to better reconstructive surgery and more options in treatment. Communication between patients and doctors nowadays is much more open than it was when her mother was diagnosed. Regarding these differences, Monica says, “I was so blessed.”

The risk of breast cancer nearly doubles for women who have a first degree relative with a history of breast cancer, but less than 15 percent of women who are diagnosed with breast cancer have a family member with the same diagnosis. According to Breastcancer.org about 1 in 8 women in the United States will develop invasive breast cancer in her lifetime. By the end of this year 252,710 new cases of invasive breast cancer are estimated to be diagnosed in our country, but people didn’t even start talking openly about breast cancer until the 20th century. Cancer was generally seen as incurable until the American Society for the Control of Cancer (later would become the American Cancer Society) worked to change this perspective in 1913.

Read on to learn more about the difference between breast cancer care then and now, and more about Charlene and Monica's unique experiences.

Photo source: Montgomery Advertiser