According to medical experts, about one in eight women in the United States will develop invasive breast cancer during her lifetime. The American Cancer Society estimates approximately 232,340 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in women in the U.S. during 2013. Of those new cases, an estimated 27,060 are expected to occur among African-American women.
Georgetta Carr is one of those women. She was diagnosed with breast cancer on June 6, 2013. After receiving her annual mammogram on May 16 on Baptist’s Women’s Health Center’s mobile mammography unit, she received a phone call requesting she schedule a follow-up exam. “On May 29, I received an ultrasound showing a 1.4 cm mass,” Carr said. “Based on my family history, an aunt who is a breast cancer survivor and my mother who is deceased due to ovarian cancer, it was determined that a biopsy should be conducted.” On June 5, the biopsy was performed and on June 6, she received a phone call that the mass was cancerous.
“I immediately reached out to my OB-GYN and other resources to identify potential breast cancer surgeons,” Carr explained. On June 13, she met with her surgeon to discuss diagnostics and by June 18 she had selected an oncologist. “I decided to pursue chemotherapy first, prior to surgery and began treatment on July 2, 2013.”
Having one first-degree relative (mother, sister, or daughter) with breast cancer approximately doubles women’s chances of developing cancer. Having two first-degree relatives triples their risk. But family history is just one of several breast cancer risk factors. The American Cancer Society notes age, lifestyle, and environment are equally important when considering women’s risks.
Medical professionals recommend average-risk women age 40 and older get annual mammograms, as well as regular clinical breast exams. For women at high risk for developing breast cancer, they recommend annual screening using MRI in addition to mammography, typically starting at age 30.
On average the mobile mammography unit serves just over 2,000 Memphis women annually, including a number of low-income/uninsured patients at the Church Health Center and Christ Community clinics. The mobile unit also serves insured patients and goes to local businesses, churches, health fairs, and health clinics. So far, in 2013, the van’s technology has found breast cancer in five women.
Carr encourages those who may be scared or in denial about beginning or having annual screenings to have them anyway. “Cancerous cells will most likely not go away without some form of treatment,” she said. “I’m thankful to God that I was diagnosed when I was and that I’ve formed a medical team I believe in.”
For more information about breast health, visit baptistonline.org. To schedule the mobile to come to your business, church or civic center, please call 901-227-PINK.