Early detection key to survival

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 13, 1999

Becky Willoughby knows how important early detection is in surviving breast cancer. When Willoughby was 42, her doctor found a slightly tender area in her breast.

&uot;I didn’t have any other symptoms at that time,&uot; she said. &uot;Dr. Godfrey sent me right on for a mammogram, the end result was that I had lobular breast cancer. Because of the type and the early detection I was treated with a mastectomy and did not require chemotherapy or radiation.&uot;

Because she continued to have yearly exams, another health crisis was caught early. &uot;Seven years later a suspicious area was found in my other breast,&uot; Willoughby said. &uot;I had a biopsy, but the pathology came back unclear from several pathologists. It was felt that it was very early ductal breast cancer.&uot;

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Willoughby said her second surgery was seven years ago and she has had good health since then.

&uot;I am firm believer in early detection,&uot; she said. &uot;All women should take time to examine their breasts and they should definitely have their annual checkups.&uot;

October is national breast cancer awareness month. The American Cancer Society estimates there will be about 175,000 new cases of invasive breast cancer this year among American women, and about 43,300 deaths from the disease.

Other than skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common cancer among women, according to the ACS. It is the second leading cause of cancer death in women, after lung cancer. And in women aged 40 to 55 it is the leading cause of death by cancer.

While there is no certain way to prevent breast cancer, there are guidelines for early detection. Three tools used in early detection are breast self-examination, clinical breast examination and mammography.

&uot;These are the minimum guidelines for early detection,&uot; said Tracy Brock, certified mammographer with the Ob-Gyn Clinic. &uot;It is always best for a woman to discuss her history and risk factors with her health care provider. By and large our physicians here at the clinic follow the ACS guidelines, but every case must be personalized.&uot;

The ACS recommends women have a baseline mammogram at 35 years old and then annually after age 40. &uot;There is no substitution for early detection in the fight against breast cancer,&uot; Brock said.