PINK UP: Take charge of your health

Breast cancer survivor urges others to take charge of their health

NEW HAMBURG, MO (KFVS) - Breast cancer doesn't discriminate, not even when it comes to age.

Jessica Barnes is living proof of that.

Barnes was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 34; six years before doctors suggest women should start getting mammograms yearly.

When Barnes was diagnosed on January 11, 2011, she was shocked.

"They're telling you, you got breast cancer and you're wondering if you're going to die are you going to live? Are you going to be able to see your boys grow up?" Barnes explained.

A double mastectomy and eight rounds of chemotherapy later, Barnes is cancer free.

Doctors say she's lucky.

"In younger women we tend to find breast cancer at later stages because they don't routinely get mammograms," Dr. Olivia Aranha said, an oncologist at Saint Francis Medical Center.

Barnes said they key to getting her through the fight was a smile.

"You just take it one day at a time and smile no matter what and just dance," Barnes said.

As a daycare provider and mother of three, she says a child's smile is priceless.

"Whether your sad or happy, they're always their to cheer you up. They always want to hug. They're always smiling and laughing and you can't help to laugh with them," Barnes said.

Both Barnes and Dr. Aranha agree, taking charge of your own health can be the difference between life or death.

"Do that self breast exam and discuss their risks with they physician," Dr. Aranha said.

"Get checked," Barnes said. "Don't just think you're invisible because anybody can get it. Cancer doesn't discriminate no matter how old you are."

Dr. Aranha says each woman is different, but the key is knowing your body.

She suggests women over the age of 40 get yearly mammograms.

"Mammograms are an effective screening tool and it decreases the risk of death from breast cancer from greater than 30 percent," Dr. Aranha said.

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