Early detection key

Published 12:39 am Saturday, October 11, 2014


If you think there’s too much pink in October, think again.

“The Breast Cancer Awareness events are helping some, but not enough,” Dr. Tim Day, an Andalusia general surgeon, said. “Many people get regular mammograms, but most women do not. I still see women with advanced breast cancers that haven’t had a mammogram in years.”

In 2010, the Centers for Disease Control estimated that 72.7 percent of Non-Hispanic women ages 50 to 74 years had had a mammogram in the past two years. The number decreased to 69.7 percent among Hispanic women.

And as a general trend, he said, the lack of a mammogram and the lack of insurance aren’t necessarily related.

“ I had a lady a couple of years ago whose cancer was so large, I had to do a skin graft because the cancer was growing into her skin,” he said. “She had Blue Cross Blue Shield, but she was ignoring (the lump) to a point where she couldn’t ignore it any more.”

Day said that over the last 30 years, as a trend, advances in tenchology have led to earlier detection, earlier surgeries, and better outcomes.

“This year, I removed a breast cancer that was about two millimeters in size, about like a BB,” he said. “When you find them that small, or even a little larger, the patient can be 100 percent cured,” he said. “The cure rate drops dramatically, with size or the tumor and length of time cancer has been there.”

The simplest, easiest thing a woman can do, he said, is self exams.

“Women can detect changes in their own breasts before doctors can,” Day said.

As the unit secretary of Andalusia Regional Hospital’s surgical unit, Anna Ware is one of the traffic cops who keeps things running smoothly for Day and others. As a daughter, she knows all too well that Dr. Day is right.

In October of 2010, Ware’s mom found a lump.

“But she said, ‘Don’t tell anybody,’ ” Ware recalled. “I hounded her until I finally put her in a car and drove her to the doctor in December.

On Jan. 6, 2011, she had a needle biopsy.

“I sat with her while she learned that she had cancer,” Ware said. By the time Ware’s mom had surgery, the cancer was in her lymph nodes. Chemo and radiation followed.

“Early detection could have saved her,” Ware said.

Exactly a year later, the cancer had metastasized to her brain. The tumor was the size of a golf ball.

“Her whole quality of life changed,” Ware recalled. “She had a craniotomy, and had to go to speech therapy.”

In January of 2013, Ware said, her mom was hurting all over. A spinal tap showed there was cancer in her spinal fluid, and she began to grow tumors on her bones.

“She always had a smile on her face,” Ware said. “I had to force her to go to the doctor. She was very brave and very strong. But early detection could have saved her life.”

Ware’s mom was diagnosed at 48.

Day said the youngest breast cancer patient he has seen was 24, and he’s treated many women in their 30s.

“They would not be getting mammograms, of course,” he said. “Self examination detection can save lives.”

As part of Breast Cancer Awareness month, Andalusia Regional Hospital is offering extended hours for mammograms. The unit is open until 7 p.m. on Mondays, and is open toady and on Sat., Oct. 25. Patients can set an appointment by calling 222-6937.