Mammography remains the most effective way to detect breast cancer today. In fact, according to the American Cancer Society, more women’s lives are being saved each year because of early detection testing.
Annual mammograms have helped reduce the death rate from breast cancer more than 34 percent since 1990.
Fay Smillie of Lebanon said she had been scheduling her mammogram once a year, though experts say that most women may opt to an every other year screening once they turn 55 years old.
“This year was the first time I had waited for two years,” Smillie, who is 70, said. “I’ve been going annually since I was in my 40s, though my gynecologist said I didn’t need either a pap test or a mammogram every year now.”
At the end of August of this year, Smillie had a mammogram, and three days afterward she was called back for a second screen.
“The radiologist showed me my scans from two years ago, and there was nothing there,” Smillie said. “Whatever happened was in that two-year period since my last mammogram.”
Smillie was scheduled for an ultrasound and a biopsy, and once the pathology report came back, it was confirmed that she had breast cancer.
“It was caught early,” Smillie said. “It was ductal carcinoma, but all the margins were clear. This was what you call the best of bad news, really.”
Just last month, on Sept. 7, Smillie had a lumpectomy — surgery to remove the cancerous tumor on her breast. She recovered quickly, and all reports showed her cancer was contained. She is scheduled to begin radiation beginning this week for a six week schedule.
“There is always a chance of reoccurrence,” Smillie said. “There are often microscopic cells that you can’t see on X-ray that could grow.”
And though Smillie admits that at her age she believed she was “home free,” and safe from the possibility of breast cancer, she said she wasn’t overly concerned because the cancer was caught early.
“I would say to any other lady that she should get a mammogram every year, no matter what,” Smillie said.
Today Smillie, who is a retired from Middletown Regional Hospital, where she worked as an employee health nurse, is back to her busy life, which includes involvement with her church and singing in both the choir and with a community group. She is also a community volunteer in Middletown for several organizations.
“I perked back up rather quickly,” she said. “I still do all the things I normally do and although I’m not quite sure how radiation will affect me, I’m just going to wait and see and adjust my life accordingly. I feel very blessed to live in an area with such quality care close by and I’m grateful for the doctors and staff at Atrium Medical Center and the Dayton Premier Physician group. The breast care center at Atrium is wonderful and their compassion is heartwarming.”
Contact this contributing writer at firstname.lastname@example.org.