BREAST CANCER AWARENESS MONTH
It was just a routine checkup.
Crested Butte resident Jane Smith wasn’t expecting anything would come of it when she went for a mammogram screening. She felt fine and was having the best summer of her life, helping her favorite nonprofit — Tough Enough to Wear Pink, or TETWP — raise money.
The organization has raised more than $3 million for breast cancer prevention and to meet the needs of families battling the disease in Gunnison County.
Imagine the irony when a new 3D tomosynthesis mammography machine purchased by TETWP found something unusual during her screening. The very equipment for which she helped to raise funds flagged a suspicious lump.
Within a week, Smith — whose name has been changed in this article for sake of privacy — was back and forth to Denver three times and stayed in a hotel four nights, seeking the best information possible. It confirmed she had breast cancer.
The good news, however, is that it was caught in Stage 1.
“I had two different doctors tell me that if we did not have our 3D mammogram machine, this wouldn’t have been caught for another year,” Smith said. “It would have gone until it was much larger, such as in Stage 2 or Stage 3, and you’re much further down the path of things getting out of hand.”
What Smith learned following her experience is that women with her same circumstances will be able to receive an accurate diagnosis here at home with the addition of a new radiologist and equipment soon to be added at Gunnison Valley Health (GVH).
Enter Dr. Karien Campbell, a diagnostic radiologist with nearly 40 years of experience, who has come out of retirement to work at the local hospital. She began this past Monday, Sept. 30 — on the eve of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
An immigrant from South Africa, Campbell conducted her residency at the University of Alabama in 1995 to receive her board certification, then worked for Breast Imaging Center in Albuquerque, N.M., beginning in 2002. She spent the last eight years specifically focused on breast imaging.
Campbell planned to hang up her hat in Mt. Crested Butte, until she met TETWP Executive Director Heidi Sherratt Bogart, who coaxed her out of retirement.
“You cannot say no to that woman,” said Campbell. “Remodeling my new home was my retirement project. But now it seems to be Gunnison Valley Health.”
With the new equipment, Campbell said needle core biopsies can be performed on identified calcification in addition to other procedures which once required travel.
“I love what I do, and I love patients,” Campbell said, noting she celebrates with those who receive good news and assists those who don’t.
In addition, TETWP has donated $164,000 to pay for imaging equipment Campbell needs, with $80,000 going toward a breast “coil” which works with a magnetic resonance imaging scan to produce 3D diagnostic images of breast tissue.
“Tying GVH’s breast care service together is general surgeon and breast care prevention specialist Stephania Timothy and oncologist Paulette Blanchet,” said GVH spokeswoman Kylie Murgatroyd. “With TETWP’s support, together, we aim to deliver the highest level of excellence in physicians, equipment and services that rival anywhere in the nation.”
As for Smith, she will continue to show the same enthusiasm for her work with TETWP, despite her treatment. Her prognosis is positive, with the disease being caught in an early stage.
“It will not define my life, but I’m going to be so much more motivated to help people,” she said. “We just have to keep doing what we’re doing.”
More importantly, she said, she’s on a campaign to see that women get their annual exams, noting prevention is key to successful treatment. Since learning of her condition, three friends told her they were overdue for their screenings and booked their appointments.
“It was shocking to me locally how many people didn’t have a clue of the abilities of our hospital and what Tough Enough to Wear Pink offers,” said Smith. “There’s no reason not to have a mammogram.”
BREAST CANCER FACTS
> According to the American Cancer Society, the number of breast cancer diagnoses annually is expected to double by 2030.
> About one in eight U.S. women (or 12 percent) will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime.
> About 2,670 new cases of invasive breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed in men in 2019. A man’s lifetime risk of breast cancer is about one in 883.
> Breast cancer incidence rates in the U.S. began decreasing in the year 2000, after increasing for the previous two decades.
> About 41,760 women in the U.S. are expected to die in 2019 from breast cancer, though death rates have been decreasing since 1989.
> For women in the U.S., breast cancer death rates are higher than those for any other cancer, besides lung cancer.
> Besides skin cancer, breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among American women. In 2019, it's estimated that about 30 percent of newly diagnosed cancers in women will be breast cancer.
> As of January 2019, there are more than 3.1 million women with a history of breast cancer in the U.S. This includes women currently being treated and women who have finished treatment.
> About 85 percent of breast cancer cases occur in women who have no family history of the disease.