To me, getting a mammogram is something I never considered NOT doing. I might postpone a dental visit or a trip to the eye doctor, but a mammogram... no way! Sure, it’s a tight squeeze for a few seconds, but the good feeling you get from that "Normal" report is certainly worth it.
When my July 2007 mammogram report came back with that "suspicious" language in it, I really wasn't concerned. My husband had been diagnosed with colon cancer earlier in the year (he's doing fine but let me make a pitch here for getting a routine colonoscopy, too!) and I thought 2 cancers in one family in less than 6 months... what are the odds? Probably just some additional views and I'll be done. Well, it wasn't to be and I was scheduled for a stereotactic breast biopsy. My diagnosis, DCIS, meant that I had done the right thing... I had a mammogram and had breast cancer caught at a very early stage.
I'm a radiation therapist and a nurse. In all honesty, I wasn't upset with this diagnosis. I felt fortunate to have the benefit of early detection. I knew that a course of radiation therapy treatment would be well tolerated and extremely effective for this type of cancer. I knew that my treatments wouldn't interfere too much with my busy life and I was able to work AND have fun like I had always done.
My DCIS would not have been detected by breast self examination because there was no "lump". Only a mammogram would have found this cancer unless I had waited too long and my stage 0 disease may have progressed. Why take that chance for the sake of a few minutes a year? If you're 40 or older, just do it. Use your birthday as a reminder... yes, give yourself a present of a yearly mammography. Make sure you're around every year to keep adding candles to that birthday cake!
No, having breast cancer wasn't fun but here's the good part - everything you do -whether it's as simple as sitting in bed reading the Sunday paper and drinking coffee or taking a fabulous vacation somewhere, becomes the gift of another day!
It seems like it was yesterday when I was coming back from my native country where we buried my mom. She had lost her five-year battle with cancer; it was so hard to see her go through so much suffering. I remember thinking that if anything happens to me; I did not want my son to suffer as much as I did with the loss of my mom, so I scheduled a physical examination right away. I was forty-four years old at the time and I did not even remember when my last physical exam was.
At the time of my consultation, the physician asked when I had my last mammogram. With embarrassment, I responded that I never had one. He recommended that I schedule one as soon as possible, as he felt an abnormality on the breast examination. The day after my screening mammogram, I was called in for additional views, and after the study was done, the radiologist revealed that there was a mass on my left breast that may need to be biopsied. He advised that I should make an appointment with my physician as soon as possible. The biopsy came back positive and following the results, everything seemed to move so quickly - appointments with physicians, surgeon, plastic surgeon, oncologist, hospital schedule and finally surgery.
The surgery took seven hours, and while at the hospital, I remember praying every night "Please Lord, my son is only five years old, let me live until he graduates from high school, this is all of the time I am asking for." Thankfully, surgery demonstrated that the malignancy had not extended into the lymph nodes, and I was able to see my son graduate.
It is true that I lost my left breast to cancer, but in my opinion, it was a small price to pay compared to the thousands of women that, sadly, have lost their lives to this deadly disease. I can not stress enough how important it is for women to have a breast examination and yearly mammogram after the age of forty, when the risk of developing breast cancer is higher. Mammography for early detection saves lives. You owe it to yourself and to your family to stay healthy.
I am a poster child for why women should have annual screening mammograms. I have been a diligent recipient of these annual exams since I was forty years old. Maybe because I am also a now 20 year "survivor" of ovarian cancer which probably makes me a bit more sensitive to the importance of cancer screening exams, whenever they are available. In 2006, a routinely scheduled mammogram detected an anomaly that needed a follow-up stereotactic biopsy. I must say that I've had more pleasant experiences in my life than this biopsy, but its positive results ultimately resulted in a relatively positive result: I had early stage, non-invasive breast cancer.
No one, even a cancer veteran as I was, wants to get a cancer diagnosis. Mine was a bit complicated since there are established genetic linkages to breast and ovarian. I was encouraged to go through genetic testing which I did and all results were thankfully negative. My treatment for my breast cancer diagnosis was very straightforward, including a lumpectomy and five weeks of daily radiation. It was not the best of times but certainly not the worst.
It was very doable; I didn't miss one day of work during my radiation treatments. The gist of my story is that my mammogram resulted in the diagnosis of the earliest possible breast cancer. My treatment has worked. Women need to take control over their bodies and take advantage of the best diagnostic tools available to address this cancer at its earliest and most treatable of stages. Please start getting your annual mammogram at age 40.
Why go for a mammogram?
My name is Maria Plazas. I am 55 and I consider myself a very lucky person or I could say I am a faithful person.
Right after Christmas 2007, on December 26, I went for my regular mammogram like every December. Nothing made me suspect there was something wrong, I was a healthy person but the radiologist found that day a big lump on my left breast. It didn't hurt, I didn't feel anything!
On January 6th, after a biopsy, the doctor told me I had breast cancer. I was terrified but I started chemotherapy treatment followed by a mastectomy and then radiation, all in about an 18-month period.
In December 2009 I went to a plastic surgeon for reconstruction of my breast. The doctor took part of my belly to build a new breast.
I feel wonderful, by the end of this year it will be three years since my diagnosis and my oncologist said the chance of re-occurrence is less every year. I recommend that every woman have a mammogram every year. Mammograms save lives! They really do.
I have a family and I did this for my children and for myself. I know so many women now whose lives were saved because they went for a mammogram every year.
It is worth it!
My name is Suzanne Field and I am a 7-year breast cancer survivor. I have been going for mammograms since I was 32 years old, after losing my best friend to breast cancer when she was 33, leaving behind three small children.
My cancer was found during my yearly mammogram. On November 14, 2003, I had surgery to remove the tumor and two weeks later had lymph node surgery.
Thank God that it had not spread and they were able to remove the tumor and the margins were clear also. I had 36 radiation treatments. Since it was caught early and had not spread, there was no need for chemo.
Two of my father's sisters had breast cancer but neither of them had a reoccurrence, and one is still living after almost 20 years. Her cancer was also caught by her yearly mammogram. I have had genetic testing that shows I do not have the breast cancer gene.
I was on tamoxifen for 5 years and am now down to one mammogram a year and going to see the oncologists twice a year.
I had no problems with the medication or radiation and I am truly blessed that it was caught when I was 46 years old. I feel great and God has richly blessed me in my health.
I totally disagree that mammograms should be not be done until you are in your 50s. If that were the case, I would most likely be dead by now, as I am now 53 and would have had breast cancer for 7 years before it was discovered. I would have missed seeing my two darling grandchildren.
I had a mammogram in 2009, but procrastinated on my 2010 check-up. I don’t have a family history of breast cancer. Sure, my father’s sister survived a serious bout with breast cancer. She was approximately 70 years old when she was diagnosed, right as rain after treatment, and died six days shy of her 89th birthday just because she was nearly 89 years old, not from any form of cancer. But she was my paternal aunt, not my mother or grandmother.
I wasn’t considered “high risk” for breast cancer, and didn’t the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force declare that women younger than 50 don’t even need mammograms at all, much less annually?
I might have died had I waited until I was 50 to have a mammogram. By the time I turned 50, I imagine my tumor would have grown well beyond “tiny” (as described by a radiologist), and I doubt anyone would have labeled it a “highly curable lesion” if it was allowed to go untreated for the next four years.
Nor would I ever have found the lump myself through self-examination. It was merely a small, suspicious spot on the digital mammogram, which prompted a sonogram. From there I had a needle biopsy, a positive breast cancer diagnosis, breast-conserving surgery, and I'll have both chemotherapy and radiation in the months to come.
And I’ll live happily ever after! I’ll see my children graduate from high school and college and get married. I’ll rock my grandchildren to sleep in my arms. And I’ll grow old with the love of my life, my best friend and soul mate. All thanks to a mammogram when I was 46.
Schedule your annual mammogram right now!
I am a breast imaging radiologist. When I saw my screening mammogram at age 46, I knew I had breast cancer. Successful surgery, chemotherapy and radiation followed. I can now share my story with patients, allaying their fears about diagnosis and treatment. Had I not had screening mammograms in my 40's, I might not be alive today, almost 10 years later.
In July 2007, at only 44 years old, I was faced with very difficult news from my doctor. After a routine mammogram, I was told I needed a biopsy due to questionable views on the mammogram.
After my biopsy, the surgeon called on a Friday afternoon to say I had a rapidly growing cancer and I needed to come in immediately. I felt like I was hit in the stomach, I started crying and felt total despair. My husband and I prayed to the Lord for His guidance, assurance, healing and peace that surpasses all understanding. I cried to the Lord and told Him, I couldn't do this alone, that I needed Him to bring me peace and healing and for His will to be done in my life.
I had a very successful lumpectomy, radiation treatments daily for five weeks, and my blood work after radiation came back with awesome high counts. Everyone was amazed at the healing that occurred. When my oncologist performed my follow-up exam after the radiation she was shocked that the treated area looked as if not one ounce of radiation touched my skin… amazing.
Three years later I am a very blessed cancer survivor. I reflect back on this period of my life and feel a very strong, unexplainable peace.
I have now been cancer free for three years and am a firm believer in having mammograms as often as your doctor suggests, at least once a year!
I’ve worked with the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program for 15 years. I’m a little more passionate about the program now than when I started, and I’d like to share with you the reasons for my passion.
On October 5, 2009, I was diagnosed with invasive breast cancer. I consider myself lucky for many reasons. First, I’m lucky because through my routine screening, my cancer didn’t have a chance to advance and my lymph nodes are clear. I know I have the resources of CDC, ACS, Mammography Saves Lives and a whole slew of others to get the information I need.
The breast cancer journey is just another journey in my life. Some of our journeys we get to choose, some we don't. The trick is to do the best with the journeys you are given.
I’m also lucky because I have access. I was able to schedule a screening mammogram 2 days after I called for an appointment and had my follow-up mammogram and ultrasound a day after I got my results. I was able to schedule a biopsy within a day of getting my diagnostic results and had my diagnosis less than 2 weeks after my initial screening mammogram. I was able to schedule an appointment with the surgeon of my choice within a week of my diagnosis and had my first surgery a day after my initial appointment with the surgeon. I had my second surgery a week and a day after my initial surgery. I had my third surgery between personal travel, and in a time frame that was still medically appropriate for my cancer. I was able to get an appointment with the oncologist of my choice within 2 weeks of my final surgery -- enough time to pass to get the appropriate oncogene typing done, but not too long.
I’m lucky because I’m fortunate enough to have not only primary insurance coverage, but also secondary and tertiary as well as a flexible medical plan. I’m lucky because I have a huge support group. My local family and friends are supporting me in this journey. My journey was easier because of the support I have from everyone in my support group.
I’m lucky because I was able to enroll in two clinical trials which will help other women facing the same journey. My oncologist and radiation oncologist worked closely with my naturopathic oncologist and I’m positive that helped to limit negative side effects of chemotherapy and radiation.
I’m lucky because the cancer center has a wonderful “chemo rehab” program designed to help people going through chemotherapy and radiation maintain their stamina. A year after my diagnosis, I am stronger, have lost some weight and my stamina increased to the point where I was able to walk a half-marathon over the summer.
I was diagnosed with breast cancer, and many people have told me “I’m so sorry for you.”
Don’t feel sorry for me. I don’t feel sorry for myself. I’m lucky. And I’m passionate about educating women on this journey because they all should be as lucky as I am. I want every woman, regardless of her knowledge, access, income or support status to be as lucky as I am as she faces her own journey beyond breast cancer.
I started getting mammograms at the age of 40, just because I knew it was what I should do. They were always "normal," so when I went April 14, 2010, I was expecting nothing different. After all, I was only 46 and we all know women over 60 are generally the ones who get breast cancer.
When I received a call back for a compression magnification on the 20th, I felt there was actually something wrong this time. After the procedure, the radiologist called me into his office, showed me my film, and explained those tiny little dots in my milk duct may be malignant. I was to be scheduled for a biopsy and needed to contact a surgeon. I broke down sobbing and was so glad my son decided to go with me.
On the 22nd, I went for my biopsy (which I named the Roto-Rooter) and had my consultation with the surgeon the same day. On April 25, Sunday evening, my surgeon called me at home. When his office number appeared on my caller ID, I knew this was not good news. It was malignant, stage 0, and was going to require surgery. On Friday morning!
I was fortunate to find that my cancer was truly Stage 0, had not spread, and to find that I was estrogen and progesterone receptor positive. Looking back at the recovery from surgery and the 36 sessions of radiation and the second degree burns on my breast, I still feel VERY lucky.
My first post-treatment mammogram was yesterday... and it's NORMAL!!
I have met more amazing people, both survivors and caretakers throughout this process, who I would never have met otherwise. Cancer is not fun, but it can be a catalyst for change for the better. Just remember one thing. You may have cancer, but cancer will NEVER have YOU! Hang in there, my pink sisters!! Every survivor is behind you!!