Receiving a breast cancer diagnosis is difficult to face at any stage, but early detection can make a tremendous difference. A LifeBridge Health program that makes mammograms more accessible aims to help women get screened, which can mean an earlier start in fighting the disease.
For the fourth year in a row, LifeBridge Health will hold a “Mammothon” event at seven Maryland locations; Sinai Hospital in Baltimore, Northwest Hospital in Randallstown, the Center for Breast Health at Carroll Hospital, Advanced Radiology at Pomona Square in Pikesville, Advanced Radiology in Owings Mills, Advanced Radiology in Eldersburg and Community Radiology Associates in Mount Airy.
The Mammothon will take place Nov. 7.
“We were really interested in trying to address the barriers that prevent women from being screened,” said Jill Bloom, director of marketing with LifeBridge Health. “Oftentimes, it’s accessibility, it’s the ability to get an appointment at a time that meets their needs and having enough locations so they have a lot of options. That’s really why we did it, we wanted to celebrate breast cancer awareness in a little bit of a different way.”
According to Bloom, last year the program screened about 130 women and they hope to screen even more this year.
A mammogram is a low-dose X-ray that can often find breast cancer when it’s small — even before a lump can be felt — which is when it’s easiest to treat, according to the American Cancer Society.
Breast cancer survivor, Christine Hale, formerly of Westminster and New Windsor and now living in Fenwick Island, Delaware, got a mammogram after she felt a lump on her left breast in February of last year.
“I went in for a mammogram and they saw something. They had me wait then I had to go over and have an ultrasound or sonogram, whatever they call it now, which is where they found a lump,” said Hale. " From that point, I was scheduled for a biopsy, the biopsy was done, it came back that it was malignant. I was stage one."
Hale found out that she was HER2 positive. According to the American Cancer Society, HER2 is a growth-promoting protein that is found on the outside of all breast cells but breast cancer with higher levels of HER2 tend to grow and spread faster than other breast cancers.
Hale expressed that about a year prior to her diagnosis, she had a mammogram that didn’t pick up on her tumor because hers was at the center of her breast and, at that time, it couldn’t be detected in that area. She said she’s happy the screenings have evolved.
“I think it’s pretty well known that screening mammograms, especially the ones which are 3-D mammography, really can pick up breast cancer at their very earliest stages,” said Bloom.
Hale also found out that she has a gene that can lead to breast cancer, colon cancer and pancreatic cancer. Because of this, she has concerns for her daughter also having the gene.
“She’ll go for the mammograms,” said Hale. “I told her to get tested. I have the genetic gene. I wanted her to know she could possibly have it too.”
Hale is now cancer-free, but still has surgery scheduled for her reconstruction since she opted for a double mastectomy during her battle with breast cancer.
“It was a long, tough journey,” said Hale. “Obviously I couldn’t do it without the love and support from my family.”
Her next mammogram will be some time next year.
Most insurance companies will only pay for one mammogram per year and it has to be at least one year and one day after the last one. So, each year, LifeBridge Health has held their Mammothon a year and a day after the last so everyone’s insurance can cover it.
According to Bloom, if someone wants to participate but doesn’t have insurance, they could try to enroll in LifeBridge’s Freedom to Screen program for financial assistance.
“Having a mammogram is the best prevention against breast cancer, so we want to make that accessible to all women and we don’t want cost to be a barrier,” said Bloom.