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SEATTLE - October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and some facilities are getting creative and taking mammograms to the streets.
Hearing the words "you have cancer" can be shocking, isolating and downright unimaginable. For health coach Deborah Enos, her breast cancer diagnosis was absolutely unacceptable.
“Complete shock. I mean honestly, I dropped the phone… I thought, do you have the wrong number? Are you kidding? There’s no way with my lifestyle I could possibly have breast cancer. I don’t fit the mold and I have zero family history!”
Out of the 10 risk factors for the disease, Deborah only has two.
"I’m a woman, and I am over 50. That’s it.”
While the diagnosis was unfathomable for Deborah, things could have been very different if she had waited, or worse, skipped her mammogram this year.
“Instead of being the stage I am, which is stage zero, which is so treatable, my doctor said I could have been easily a stage two, a one or two by the time I came back.”
Doctors say breast cancer doesn’t discriminate and women should start getting annual mammograms between 40 and 45 years old.
While there are obviously some fears of going to doctors offices in the middle of a pandemic, most facilities are taking extreme precautions to keep patients safe. If you’re still not convinced, there are other options to consider. Swedish Medical Center deploys 2 mobile mammography coaches into communities where women may not have access or not have had the chance to get a mammogram,
Laura Roberts is a manager of the program.
"We decided that the mobile coach is probably the safest place for a patient to be because it is easily contained," she says. "We additionally break down those barriers that you might have within certain ethnicities, and we just bring the coach right to them, then they’re not afraid.”
Through the program, a patient's insurance is billed, but if that is not an option, the team will help line up resources to make it possible, as they stress the importance of screening mammography is really, early detection.
“Breast cancer caught early enough is totally treatable. There’s a significant decrease in mortality by doing routine screening mammography.”
In a normal year, the coaches will see roughy 6,500 patients, but are seeing a decline because of the coronavirus.
Last year, they were able to diagnose 14 cancer cases through mobile mammography.
Deborah says the test was a game-changer for her.
“The mammogram, it’s not perfect, but it caught this and I am so grateful that it did.”
Deborah has already had two surgeries, and says because it was caught so early, she doesn’t have to ungero chemotherapy, but she will do radiation.
"I am on my soapbox now saying to women, honestly, if you can go out and get your nails done, you can get a mammogram, it is about the same amount of exposure as far as being with another person.”
Deborah is taking a class to learn more about breast cancer as she is adament about helping other women who are struggling with their own diagnosis.
If you want to take advantage of the mobile mammography program, you do need a primary care physician so that if something is caught on a scan, they have a place to send the results to.
Click here to see locations and more information on the Swedish Mobile Mammography program.
Seattle Cancer Care Alliance also has a program you can look into here.
Overlake Hospital, where Deborah is being treated, is starting their mobile mammography program in 2021.
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