Friday, October 9, 2015

Mammograms key in early detection


Rachel Morgan, mammography technologist at CoxHealth Women's Center Branson, discusses the details she sees during a mammogram.

For years, Ellen Young never missed having her annual mammogram. Young, the associate administrative director of laboratory at CoxHealth, was also diligent to follow self-examination guidelines. In 2002, however, Young mistakenly missed a yearly exam.

“If it wasn’t for my daughter constantly reminding me to get it done at that time, I likely wouldn’t have had my mammogram when I did,” Young said. “It was during that exam they discovered the cancer.”

Young was diagnosed with breast cancer two days before Christmas 2002.

“I met with my surgeon on Christmas Eve to decide my course of treatment,” she explained. “Surgery was scheduled two days after Christmas.”

Because of the surgery Young elected to have and the size of the tumor, she did not need to undergo chemotherapy or radiation.

She said she believes without a doubt that had she not had the mammogram when she did, she would have endured much more extensive treatments and her battle with breast cancer would have been a much different story.

“I believe early detection saved my life,” Young said. “I strongly encourage all women to get their mammograms. I had no family history of breast cancer and I had always done self-exams as recommended. Without having the mammogram when I did, my story might have ended differently. I never felt the tumor nor could my surgeon feel the tumor. At the time of the diagnosis, I had no symptoms to indicate anything was wrong. It was only through the mammogram was my cancer detected.”

Breast cancer is the most common cancer among American women, except for skin cancers, according to the American Cancer Society. About 1 in 8 women in the U.S. will develop invasive breast cancer during their lifetime.

The American Cancer Society's estimates that in 2015, about 231,840 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in women and about 40,290 women will die from breast cancer this year.

“Early detection is key,” said Rachel Morgan, a mammogram technologist at Cox Medical Center Branson. 

“Unfortunately, many women don’t realize the importance of early detection. The earlier you catch something, the better your prognosis is, and that includes breast cancer. In order to catch it early, you have to be faithful in taking those preventative measures and that means having a mammogram every year.”

Mammograms can detect breast cancer in women who have no signs or symptoms, such as the case with Young.

“People often think cancer is something you feel and as long as you are not feeling something, you are safe,” Morgan said. 

“That is not true. So many cancers are cancers you can’t feel and can only be detected through a mammogram. Mammograms allow us to detect cancer when it is in its earliest stages and only microscopic. If a woman is waiting until she feels something, when she does, she will end up going through a lot more than if we catch it when it is only microscopic.”

The American Cancer Society recommends for early breast cancer detection in women without symptoms, that women begin mammograms at the age of 40 and continue doing so as long as they are in good health.

“The other thing we want is for women to be doing their self-exams,” Morgan said. “We want young women to be aware of lumps and changes in their breasts and if they feel a lump or change, not to be deceived that they are too young. We are seeing a lot of younger women with findings unfortunately.”

Morgan said it is also important for women to know that a mammogram is not an impersonal procedure at CoxHealth Women’s Center in Branson.

“As women, when we designed our beautiful office space, we evaluated what was important to us and then we incorporated those things into every aspect of our service,” Morgan explained. 

“We have created an abundance of appointment options and we respect the value of our patients’ time so we work diligently to run on or ahead of schedule. We also have a private office with separate registration. Once our patient is called back, she is given a gown and chocolate, because everything is better with chocolate, even a mammogram.”

To schedule a mammogram in Branson, call 348-8313. If you are in the Springfield area and would like to schedule a mammogram, please call 269-LADY. In Monett, call 354-1138.