Department: Diagnostic Imaging
I nearly skipped my mammogram this year
When Diane Hennebert turned 41 during the COVID-19 pandemic, she didn’t celebrate it as in previous years, due to social distancing. Since it had been such a unique year, she also figured she could probably wait to get her mammogram screening the following year, especially since her first mammogram at age 40 came back clear. However, witnessing the impact of breast cancer in someone close to her was one of the main factors that eventually encouraged Diane to go ahead and schedule her screening in December of 2020.
“I nearly skipped my mammogram this year,” Diane said. “I figured hey, I am young, my last scan was clear, there is a pandemic going on, I don’t really want to go into a hospital unless I absolutely have to. I think there are a LOT of women who thought the same thing.” Her observation is absolutely correct, as some studies have shown a 51% decrease in mammograms and breast cancer diagnoses in the last year, due to women postponing their screening appointments during COVID.
Thankfully, Diane decided to push beyond her initial hesitation. She picked up the phone and scheduled her mammogram at Island Health; and this seemingly-insignificant phone call undeniably changed the trajectory of her life.
“I 100% expected to go in, have a clear scan, and pat myself on the back for taking good care of myself, and move on with my day with peace of mind,” Diane recalls. But when Island Health called the next day and told her that she needed to return for additional imaging, she couldn’t help but feel incredible trepidation. The additional tests were requested due to some calcification that showed up in her screening images. In the few weeks between appointments, Diane wavered between optimism and fear. She would often tell herself that it was ‘probably nothing;’ after all, the calcification area was fairly small, and she didn’t have a lump that was noticeable in any checks by hand. At the same time, though, Diane couldn’t help but have a nagging feeling at the back of her mind, as she wondered whether that calcification actually could be pointing to something concerning, and potentially life-changing.
At Diane’s enhanced imaging appointment a few weeks after her initial screening, the radiologist was present in order to give Diane results sooner than later. So after just ten short minutes, Diane was given the recommendation that she ought to get a biopsy on her breast. After the biopsy, Diane remembers that it was incredibly shocking to her, sitting in her primary care provider’s office and hearing that she did, in fact, have breast cancer.
Through an excruciatingly difficult process of exams, her own personal research, and conferring with specialists, Diane ultimately decided to undergo a unilateral mastectomy. “Recovery has been really, really difficult but I also would absolutely make the same decision all over again,” she said.
Because of Diane’s early diagnosis, interventions, and treatments, her prognosis is excellent. But undoubtedly, her prognosis is also due, in large part, to her own choice to call and schedule her screening mammogram with Island Health – even in the midst of a pandemic.
Diane feels very thankful for the care she received during her mammogram imaging with Island Health. “I can’t say enough good things about the mammogram tech and radiologist. It was a painless process and they put me completely at ease during it all. They were able to get me in quickly and were very responsive and kind. I wonder sometimes if it is too dramatic to say my mammogram saved my life. But it might have!”
If you are curious about when to schedule your own screening mammogram please speak to your provider, and look at our current mammogram recommendations by clicking here. Please do not hesitate to schedule your screening; it just could be the phone call that saves your life.
As Diane said, “I think every single day how grateful I am that I got that mammogram and that I get to move forward with my life and not worry that I won’t see my kids graduate from high school.”
For screening mammogram appointments call 360-299-4288. If you need help finding a provider, please call (360) 293-3101.