At MIT, they are using artificial intelligence to predict breast cancer five years before it is currently being diagnosed according to a story here. I’ve really stopped to think about this story a lot over the past couple of days since reading it the first time.
What would have changed for me?
Five years before I was diagnosed, I wouldn’t have been asked to get a mammogram. I would have been 34ish years old – too young to worry about breast cancer according to most. (That’s a lie by the way. Always check your breasts regardless of your age) I doubt anything would have prompted my doctors to look into this AI test either because prior to having cancer I didn’t know I carried the BRAC2 mutation nor did I fully know my family’s history with breast cancer.
But . . . let’s pretend that I was screened with this new technology back then and a doctor told me, “You might get breast cancer in the next 3-10 years.” What would I do?
What would my options have been? Have a preventive mastectomy? Yeah, I might have done that. I had already decided my family was complete, so I might have agreed to this invasive surgery having no idea what I was really getting myself into.
Would they have asked me to go on chemo? Probably in some form or fashion. I think they would ask me to do that or radiation. I would have said “No”, and I seriously don’t think anyone would have tried to talk me into it if cancer was only a “probably” and not a “you have cancer”.
Would I have lived my life differently? I’d like to say I would have, but the truth is sometimes it takes going to a really dark place or through a really tough time to really change you, so I’m not sure how much would have actually changed to be honest.
Would I have shared my story on a probability diagnosis? No, I don’t think I would have. I would have probably let it live inside of me and allowed it to become the actual cancer that would have eventually eaten me alive with stress and anxiety. The fear of what might be is often way worse than the fear of what is. It’s crazy but so true.
Do I want advancements made in medicine? Yes! Do I want others to be proactive in their self-care? Yes! If this new technology would have been used on me at that point in my life knowing what I knew back then instead of what I know now, would I have made different choices? I honestly don’t know.
But knowing what I know now if I could have rewound my life to five years before diagnosis, would I have done things differently? I’d say – Yes! I already knew something wasn’t right. So having better technology that could have possibly pinpointed what was wrong earlier would have been nice. Instead, doctors took me down a much different road which might have masked some symptoms of breast cancer and actually delayed my diagnosis. If I could have been given a chance to save my breasts, I would have done it in a heartbeat! If I would have been given a chance to balance my hormones instead of them feeding a tumor, I would have done whatever anyone told me to do to make that happen to save me from cancer and early menopause. Would I have probably still gotten cancer? Maybe. But maybe not.
What if’s are a slippery slope. Unfortunately, I can’t go back in time. I can only change what I’m in control of changing in my now. Yesterday is over. I’m thankful for today. And I’m glad I get a few more tomorrows. But with new technology comes hope for the next generation of women who might, or hopefully might not, get breast cancer. All of us who’ve walked this road, we all hold on to hope that breast cancer becomes a curable disease and not just a treatable one. So keep searching for the cure – I have to believe there’s one out there.