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Understanding Breast Cancer

CCP is going pink to help raise awareness of Breast Cancer! During Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we are doing our part to help educate and provide the best breast cancer resources to our patients and our community.

Understanding Breast Cancer

CCP is going pink to help raise awareness of Breast Cancer! During Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we are doing our part to help educate and provide the best breast cancer resources to our patients and our community.

All About Breast Cancer

First, what is breast cancer? Of course, you know what it is, but do you really know what it is? Breast cancer starts when cells in the breast begin to grow out of control. The problem is that these cells usually develop into the form of a tumor. Ladies, you know how doctors tell you to perform a self-exam to check for any lumps? DO IT! In some instances, you can feel those tumors as lumps under your skin.

Like any cancer, early detection is KEY. When you detect breast cancer early, and it hasn't had the chance to spread, it's a lot easier to treat successfully. So, how do you detect breast cancer early? Screening tests. The goal of these tests is to find cancer before it causes symptoms, like a lump that you would feel during a self-breast exam. Women with a low lifetime risk who have no family history of breast cancer and who have not had breast cancer themselves should get annual screenings beginning at age 40 with mammography or digital breast tomosynthesis (DPT).

Am I at risk? Good question. Studies have shown that your risk for breast cancer is due to a combination of factors. The main factors that influence your risk include being a woman and getting older. Thankfully, there are some factors you do have control over that can lower your risk for breast cancer. These factors include being physically active, maintaining a healthy weight after menopause, avoid taking hormones, and limiting your alcohol intake. Speak with your doctor if you are concerned about your risk for breast cancer. They will give you recommendations based on your personal health and lifestyle. Breast cancer is most treatable when found early, so don't wait to have this important conversation.

What happens if a lump is detected during a screening? Irregular breast cancer screening – words no woman, or her loved ones, want to hear. If you or someone you know has had an abnormal mammogram, it's a good idea to take a minute and breathe. It's easy to let the panic set in, but keep in mind that the screenings themselves are not conclusive. Your doctor will need to order additional testing to clarify their findings. These tests may include a breast ultrasound, MRI, and/or a biopsy. The ultrasound and MRI allow your doctor to capture more detailed images of the area in question. An abnormal mammogram does not always mean that you have breast cancer. If no cancer was detected, then you will likely be asked to receive more frequent screenings to monitor your body for any changes.

A Breast Cancer Survivor's Tale

According to the American Cancer Society, 1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer at some point during their lifetime. Nearly everyone is impacted by breast cancer in some way, and that includes us here at CCP. Courtney Warzek, an MRI/CT technologist at ImageCare Medical Imaging, was that 1 in 8. Courtney was only 30 years old when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. We asked Courtney if she would be willing to share her remarkable story as a breast cancer survivor. "Of course," Courtney replied. "If sharing my story reminds one person to do a self-exam, it is worth it." Since her experience, Courtney has become a supporter of other breast cancer survivors and a voice of advocacy to remind young women to get themselves checked for breast cancer.

"My story starts on April 23rd, 2009. I was taking a shower after coming home from the gym when I noticed a fairly large lump in my right breast. Tons of things ran through my mind. Is this a cyst? Could it be a tumor? Due to my occupation in the medical field and knowing the things I know, I was really concerned about the size and shape. Because of my age and my family history, it couldn't be breast cancer, right?? So, what next? Do I wait and see if this "mass" goes away? Maybe it's just a cyst and is inflamed from my menstrual cycle. I waited until Monday morning when I called my primary care doctor's office and made an appointment. Fortunately, I work in the same building, so I was able to go that day on my lunch break. I saw the nurse practitioner who I wave to most mornings. When she felt the lump, I was looking at her, and she looked, oh so subtly, frightened. I was really hoping to leave that appointment with her saying, "It's probably just a cyst, but we'll just check it to be sure." While she didn't say anything to scare me, I just wasn't hearing what I wanted. So once again, I made another appointment to have a mammogram and a breast ultrasound for the following Thursday. At this point, I didn't know what to think. Am I overreacting? When I thought back to my lifestyle, age, and family history, I actually almost canceled my appointment because I did not want to miss work. Thank God I didn't! So, on April 30th, 26 days after turning 30, I had someone looking at me and telling me I had breast cancer!! I must say, words can't explain how I felt. I did know one thing – I felt that I was in this position for a reason, and I was going to survive to share my story. Hopefully, my story can save some lives. I've never had a true passion for anything prior to being diagnosed with breast cancer. Sure, there are plenty of things I like to do and causes that I support – however, nothing gave me the feeling that this is my purpose. As much as I would have preferred to continue to be a healthy 30-year-old woman, I truly have found my passion!!"

Courtney had her mammogram and all of her medical imaging done at ImageCare. They discovered that she had three tumors, two masses on her right breast that measured 4 cm, and a mass the size of a golf ball under her right armpit. The cancer had also spread to her lymph nodes. She was diagnosed with breast cancer bordering on stage 3 and stage 4 breast cancer. Courtney stated that her care team at ImageCare "recommended the best doctors" for all of her treatments. She had to receive chemotherapy as well as a double mastectomy followed by radiation therapy. Many years after treatment, now in double digits, Courtney is still cancer-free! Instead of letting her experience get her down, Courtney uses it as a source of inspiration every single day. She enjoys sharing her story as a breast cancer survivor and talking to young women about the importance of self-checks. Working as an MRI/CT technologist at ImageCare, Courtney gets to meet many new people every day. Whether working at ImageCare or her part-time job as a bartender, Courtney gets the opportunity to touch many lives. Courtney said her experience helped to bring her and her coworkers closer together. When Courtney got sick, all of her coworkers chipped in and donated money to help her with her medical bills. After her treatment was over, her coworkers at ImageCare decided to continue to help each other out. They started their own charity they call "Friends in Need." Throughout the previous years, they had fundraisers and put the money raised into a collection, so it's there for the next time one of them needs it. With employees from all ImageCare locations helping raise money, they could significantly impact each other when they need it most. Just as they did when she received her diagnosis, Courtney and her coworkers continue to love and support one another. "CCP really does feel like a family," says Courtney.

The Breast Centers at ImageCare

The Breast Center at ImageCare, located in Latham and Clifton Park, is one of the Capital Region's few full-service breast centers providing the latest breast cancer screening and diagnosis. An accredited facility of the American College of Radiology (ACR), The Breast Center of ImageCare provides state-of-the-art technology paired with excellent patient care to serve women's breast health needs. They offer the unique benefit of having your breast imaging services provided in one location without traveling to different offices for care. You'll come to know our staff and trusted physicians throughout your visits with us, so you can feel confident you are in excellent and familiar hands.

Dr. Rupal Patel, Dr. Catherine Wells, Dr. Jessica Fournier are fellowship-trained and board-certified in breast imaging. They are leaders in their specialized field in administering and reading mammography, breast ultrasound, and breast MRI, which ensures your tests are reviewed by the most qualified professionals in the field. Our radiologists will provide you with your test results and take the time to explain what is being done every step of the way. Our specialists perform image-guided biopsies at both of our Breast Centers in Latham and Clifton Park. Our ImageCare locations in Guilderland, Niskayuna, and North Greenbush all provide screening services as well. Diagnostic imaging is performed in our Latham and Clifton Park ImageCare offices.

Sometimes a little handholding is just what you need. The Breast Center at ImageCare is pleased to provide our patients with access to our unique care coordinators. Breast cancer is a frightening diagnosis, but there are tremendous resources and specialists available to you for treatment and care. While The Breast Center at ImageCare doesn't treat breast cancer, we know of many reputable and trusted specialists in the area that can provide you with treatment options. Our Care Coordinator will walk you through the process of finding a doctor with whom you feel comfortable.

To learn more about The Breast Centers at ImageCare, visit their website.



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