Doctors recommend keeping up with regular mammograms to catch breast cancer early

Updated: Oct. 4, 2022 at 6:00 PM CDT
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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - October is breast cancer awareness month. With that in mind, doctors and breast cancer survivors are urging people to keep up with their annual mammograms.

Doctor Jessica Lemke with Marshfield Clinic in Chippewa Falls says breast cancer is one of the more common cancers.

“Especially among women,” Lemke said. “And the earlier you detect something the easier it is to treat and the better the outcome. So, for example, if you find an early stage breast cancer, the five-year survival rate is greater than 99%.”

With early detection being key, Lemke urges people to keep up with regularly scheduled mammograms.

“A mammogram is a form of imaging where they take looks at different levels of the breast to look for any abnormal lumps, bumps that could be concerning for a breast cancer,” Lemke said.

Sarah Brower is someone who typically stays on top of going to her mammogram appointments, but she skipped it in 2021.

“We were very busy during COVID and so I didn’t have a lot of time. I didn’t even need to go to the doctor during that time either,” Brower said.

When Brower when in for a check-up earlier this year, she heard the words no one wants to hear.

“I went in for my mammogram in January and it was the end of January. So, they asked me to come back for a second one, and it ended up being in February, and that’s when we did a biopsy and found out that there was cancer,” Brower said.

When Brower received her diagnosis, she says she thought “why me?” and “Why do I have it now?”

“I have two sons that were getting married. My daughter just had twins. I, because of COVID, our trip to Fiji was pushed off and all of a sudden this year we can go back to Fiji, but now here I’m diagnosed with this and I’m going to have to go through chemo and radiation and surgery,” Brower said.

Brower says thankfully the lump doctors found was relatively small.

“To start off, maybe we wouldn’t have caught it last year,” Brower said. “Maybe it wouldn’t have been big enough because of its location, the size of it was actually beneficial to finding it.”

Even though the cancer was on a small scale, Brower is grateful it was found and urges others to get their mammograms too.

“Because without it, you can’t always tell this was something,” Brower said. “I couldn’t feel with the normal breast self-exam that you would do and this was something that could only be found in the mammogram.”

Lemke says another step you can take is by self-examining at home.

“Whether you’re doing it monthly or every couple of months in the shower, just checking, seeing if there’s anything abnormal,” Lemke said. “And that would be able to prompt an appointment with your doctor to talk about, ok, what are the next steps or find out is this something normal or is this something that I should be concerned about?”