Women open up about being diagnosed with breast cancer amid COVID-19 pandemic

Breast cancer survivors underscore the importance of mammogram screenings.
6:27 | 10/22/20

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Transcript for Women open up about being diagnosed with breast cancer amid COVID-19 pandemic
awareness month, and if the pandemic has you wondering which appointments you can put off, meet three women who want you to know that a breast cancer screening is definitely one you need to keep. Take a look. My name is jenn Gordon. I'm 41 years old and like probably many of you this year during the pandemic, I was wondering whether I should skip my mammogram. My husband and I were working from home. We have a 3 and 5-year-old. We were trying to keep busy while we did our jobs. Things were really crazy. I ended up keeping my appointment because a really good friend of mine was diagnosed with breast cancer last year, and I had promised her that I would get my mammograms. I got my mammogram and on August 27th, I was diagnosed with early stage breast cancer. Just kept thinking, why me? And what was going to happen next. Three weeks ago I had a successful double mastectomy. The morning of my surgery, my son told me to be brave and I focused on those words all morning and as they rolled me in for surgery, and it's what got me through. I had my last mammogram in December of 2019 and it came back clear. In January of 2020 by accident, I brushed hi hand across my breast and found a lump. I was hesitant to go to the doctor due to covid, but it was important that I determine what was going on. I scheduled the appointment and on June 19th, I was diagnosed with breast cancer in both breasts. I had to tell my boys. That was the hardest conversation I had. I made the decision to have a bilateral mastectomy. I am now currently on chemotherapy. I decided actually to shave my head in advance. Now I'm embraing the new me until it grows back. I was due for my annual mammogram at the height of the pandemic. I'm a busy mom. I'm navigating a divorce. So having a mammogram wasn't even on my radar. In April of this year, we received some stunning news. My mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. The surgeon was insistent that all of us, all of my mom's daughters needed to get checked for breast cancer immediately. The call came three or four days later from my ob/gyn that said, I'm sorry, Jennifer. There's no easy way to tell you this, but you have breast cancer. One week ago today, I had a double mastectomy. My oldest daughter is 18, and she got very emotional over it, and the only advice I can give to her at that time was you just keep standing up. You take your legs and you just keep standing up. I just keep thinking I would never in a million years skip one of their doctors' appointments and I'm always encouraging my husband to make his doctors' appointments, so why was I so willing to skip mine? It's extremely important to get your annual mammogram. It's also very important to do self-examinations. I realize that breast cancer loves the woman who is too busy, too tired, too devoted to others or two afraid to stop and go to her mammogram appointment. Take action for your health. All it takes is putting yourself and your health first for ten minutes every year. It's more important than ever. Joining us now with more potentially life-saving information is breast oncologist at memorial Sloan Kettering cancer center, Dr. Elizabeth comen. Welcome. Thank you so much. It's such an important message, getting your yearly mammogram can feel scary. I have not been diagnosed with breast cancer, but I never skipped mine because of my two best friends who were diagnosed with breast cancer and are survivors, but what's your advice about feeling empowered and knowing which questions to ask? Thank you so much for having me, Sara, and thank you to these extraordinarily brave women for sharing their stories with us I'm not just an oncologist who treats breast cancer. I'm a busy working mom with three children. We can all identify and relate with the anxiety associated with getting mammograms and women especially today are getting pulled in so many different directions. It's all the more reason that women need to be empowered to take care of themselves. Sara, I want to share with you a really staggering statistic which is that breast cancer diagnoses are down over 50% now, and that's not because cancer is quarantining or sheltering in place. It's because people aren't showing up for their screenings, and what we worry about is how this may run down to deaths in the future. Thousands potentially because people aren't coming in for their screening. We want people to feel empowered to show up for their doctors' appointments for their mammograms to know that it's safe. I wear a mask. Everybody in the hospital wears a mask and important questions to ask your doctor are also to discuss your family history. You may need screening earlier than the average woman and also to ask your doctor if you have dense breasts because dense breasts might need additional screening such as with ultra sounds. Are there things to do to prevent breast cancer? Absolutely. One thing is we do need to know our family history, and that means knowing the family history of cancer on your mother's side and also on your father's side. When it comes to modifiable risk factors, things you can do yourself, there are three important things to think about. One is maintaining a healthy weight and eating healthy. Two is exercising. Three is decreasing your alcohol consumption. Now I said these three modifiable things in the middle of a pandemic and we know everybody is circling the kitchen right now stressed and they may not be able to go to you may be drinking more. It's really important as a community collectively, we encourage people to eat better. I do zoom workouts with my girlfriends in the morning, and if you are turning to drinking too much, you really reach out to a trained mental health professional to help with some of the stress and anxiety that so many people are feeling right now with the upheaval in the Absolutely. A big thank you to the women that shared their personal stories in that touching taped piece and also thank you, Dr. Elizabeth comen for being with don't skip your mammograms.

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