Mammograms can save lives; October is breast cancer awareness month

By Lisa Capobianco

Staff Writer

For local resident Jean Rose, September 11, 2001 marked a day of disaster: her nephew worked at the Pentagon, so she felt concerned for his safety. Along with that, Rose discovered a startling revelation: she had breast cancer.

“I was shattered,” Rose said. “You feel like your life is over.”

Without hesitation, Rose decided to undergo a mastectomy on her left breast, and shortly after underwent another mastectomy on her right breast before the cancer even became active. She received chemotherapy in 2002, and nearly 12 years later, Rose said she is doing well as a breast cancer survivor.

“Cancer is just a word—it is not a sentence,” Rose said. “The day we get diagnosed is the day we become survivors.”

About two to three years after Rose’s diagnosis, one of her daughters discovered that she also had breast cancer, and underwent a double mastectomy without thinking twice about the surgery. Rose said her daughter is also doing well as a survivor.

“We consider ourselves very fortunate,” Rose said. “It has given me a new purpose.”

Breast cancer serves as the second leading cause of cancer death in women, reported the American Cancer Society. According to American Cancer Society’s website, women by age 40 should undergo yearly mammograms, and women in their 20s and 30s should undergo clinical breast exams about every three years.

Dr. Barbara Fallon, the medical director of the Comprehensive Breast Health Center at the Hospital of Central Connecticut said it is especially important for women over 50 years old to get screened.

“Breast cancer usually occurs in one-third of women under age 50, and two-thirds of women over age 50.” Dr. Fallon said.

The American Cancer Society’s breast health guidelines also report that women of all ages should also report any changes they notice in their breasts to their physicians.

“Every chance of getting screened is a lifesaver,” said Dr. Sai Varanasi of the new Beekley Center for Breast Health and Wellness at Bristol Hospital. “Look out for any red flags.”

Dr. Varanasi shared a survey recently presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology Breast Cancer Symposium 2013. Dr. Varanasi said that according to the study, nine out of ten women who were about to undergo a mammogram could not accurately quantify their risk for breast cancer, whether they overestimated or underestimated their risk.

“They are listening, but they are not synthesizing,” Dr. Varanasi said. “There is a lot of information out there.”

A captain for the Southington Relay for Life since 2003, Rose said women should take their risk of getting breast cancer seriously, and should not neglect their yearly mammograms.

“The earlier you are detected, the better your prognosis is,” Rose said. “They absolutely save lives.”

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