Yolanda’s Breast Cancer Battle: “If it were any bigger, I might not be here”

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a time to draw attention to the most common cancer for women in the United States, and the second most common cause of cancer death in women. It also serves as a reminder for women to schedule their annual mammogram screening.

“The goal of screening for breast cancer is to find it before it causes symptoms, like a lump that can be felt. Breast cancer found during screening exams is more likely to be smaller in extent and have better outcomes,” said Dr. Caitlin Chiles.

In this edition of our blog, Hunter Health patient Yolanda Caesar is sounding the alarm on just how crucial an annual mammogram can be, and how a simple checkup may have saved her life.

“If it weren’t for her, I wouldn’t have known.”

Months ago, Yolanda came to Hunter Health for a routine checkup. During the appointment, Callie Wentling, PA, Director of Clinical and Quality Engagement, noticed something abnormal and scheduled Yolanda to get a mammogram. The results showed Yolanda in stages one and two of breast cancer — meaning the cancer was small but growing beyond the early stages.

That meant Callie needed to connect Yolanda with specialists for a mastectomy to remove the cancer, and a hysterectomy due to positive genetic testing that placed her at a higher risk for gynecological cancer.

 “And that meant losing my womanhood, so I sat there and cried a long time,” Yolanda says. “But then I thought about it — do I want to live or die? And I wanted to live. So, I continued through my journey.”

Yolanda says, because the cancer was caught early, treatment was relatively minimal and did not require chemotherapy. She’s now cancer-free and happy to be living every day. She says it was her routine appointment with Hunter Health that kept her alive.

“Callie is the one who discovered it, and she was by my side the whole time,” she says. “If it hadn’t been for her, the cancer could have progressed to stage three or worse, because I didn’t even know I had it.”

“You should get your annual checkups, all of them, so you can be safe.”

And she has this to say for anyone fearful of a checkup for the possibility of a positive result.

“It doesn’t really change your life. It makes it better so you don’t get cancer and die. And within yourself, you should know you’re still a woman.”

5 Reasons why Regular Screenings Matter

  1. Breast cancer-related deaths dropped nearly 40% between 1989 and 2014 thanks to early detection and treatment.
  2. 1 in 8 women in the U.S. will develop breast cancer in their lifetime
  3. 85% of women with breast cancer do not have a family member with the disease
  4. Smaller lumps typically are easier to treat and, like in Yolanda’s case, may not require chemotherapy and other treatments.
  5. The five-year survival rate of those who catch and treat stage 0 or stage 1 breast cancer—essentially meaning that the cancer hasn’t spread to other parts of the body—is an astounding 100 percent.

Sources: National Breast Cancer Foundation, Susan G. Komen, American Cancer Society

Get Screened Today

Whether or not you experience symptoms of breast cancer, the American Cancer Society suggests the following screening protocols for women:

  • Ages 40 to 44: annual screening with mammograms, if requested
  • Ages 45 to 54: annual mammograms
  • Ages 55+: annual or biennial (every other year) mammograms

Lack of health insurance may be a barrier to women scheduling a yearly mammogram. Through a partnership with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE), Hunter Health refers eligible patients to the Early Detection Works Program (EDWP).

“The best defense against breast cancer is early detection,” says Suzanne Proctor, Early Detection Works Nurse Manager “The Early Detection Works Program is here to assist low-income, uninsured, or underinsured Kansas residents by providing funding for free breast- and cervical-cancer screenings.”

This program provides clinical breast exams, mammograms, Pap tests, and diagnostic services for women who meet the following requirements:

•     Women 21 to 64 years old for cervical-cancer screenings.

•     Women 40 to 64 years old for breast-cancer screenings.

•     Women who do not have health insurance.

•     The woman’s family income is at or below 250% of current federal poverty guidelines.

There’s no reason to not get your annual checkup and stay on top of your health. At Hunter Health, we provide the resources you need to get quality, integrated care at an affordable rate. Schedule your checkup with us today by calling 316-262-2415.

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