BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - With pink ribbons dotting the October landscape, doctors and awareness advocates are reminding women of the proper ways to get screened for breast cancer. Early detection is the first step in beating the disease.
This same time last year, Faye Stutts was planning a 25-year vow renewal ceremony. But plans nearly came to a crashing halt after going in for her annual mammogram.
"They called me back and said I needed to come back again," she said. "They told me that they found something. I went home and I spoke to my husband and I told him about it and I told him I thought we should stop the planning, and he said. 'No, we're not going to stop it. We're going to continue.'"
And it's a good thing they did, because Faye found her cancer early.
"When a woman is found to have breast cancer early, she has options. She can choose a variety of ways to treat her breast cancer to include keeping her breast by utilizing surgery and radiation versus having a breast removed. In some cases, when women aren't found soon enough, some of these choices are no longer there," said Dr. William Russell, the radiation oncologist who treated Stutts at the Baton Rouge General. "It's a much happier story when we find it early."
The latest guidelines from the American Cancer Society advise women to begin self breast exams at age 18 and to get a physician breast exam every three years through age 40. After 40, a physician exam should become annual, along with a mammogram as long as physically possible.
Women should talk to their doctor to determine what screening routine is best for them, depending on factors like family history and breast density.
"It's very important that women have breast awareness, that they know how their breasts change as they go through their cycle, and I think the American Cancer Society guidelines are very level-headed and they make sense," Dr. Russell added.
Combined with the latest research, early detection is saving lives.
"We've identified aspects of breast cancer that select certain targets such as the HER2/neu over-expression that allows the use of Herceptin," Dr. Russell said. "There are other new drugs such as Perjeta, and other like boutique drugs that are being used to improve women's life spans and improve outcomes."
Treatment for early-stage breast cancer often involves nothing but local and possibly hormonal therapies, avoiding the the toxic, systemic therapies, he noted.
After two surgeries and radiation treatment, Faye was declared cancer free in April, making her August anniversary all the more meaningful.
"I had more than just a 25th year anniversary to celebrate," she said. "I had life. I was free of cancer. I had a lot to thank God for. It was more than just a celebration of a wedding. It was a celebration of life."
BRG's Pennington Cancer Center hosts its annual awareness event "Life's a Canvas" on Oct. 23.