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franklin county times

Self-exam saves lives

By Staff
Melissa Cason
Franklin County Times
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and during this month the importance of breast self-exams and mammograms are emphasized to promote breast health in women. One Russellville woman knows the importance of self-exams first hand because one saved her life.
Karen Thompson was diagnosed with Breast Cancer in September 1995, and admits that even then she did not do self-exams every month even though she knew early detection saves lives.
A few weeks prior to her diagnosis, Thompson decided to do a self-exam and found a lump in her breast.
"At first, I didn't think anything of it, but I kept noticing it and decided to go ahead and schedule a doctor's appointment," Thompson said.
Her doctor was not alarmed right away, and he thought that the lump was due to an infection, and prescribed an antibiotic.
"When I noticed it wasn't getting any better I called the doctor back and told him something was definitely wrong," she recalled.
She was sent to a surgeon for a biopsy, and soon learned that what was originally thought to be an infection was cancer. The surgeon recommended a mastectomy right away. The next several days were difficult time.
Thompson and her husband sought information from a family friend who had been through her own breast cancer diagnosis, and was knowledgeable about the treatments.
She looked for a second opinion on how it should be treated.
Within days of her diagnosis, Thompson found herself at MD Anderson in Houston, Texas for an evaluation.
"I got a complete workup from ultrasound to another mammogram," Thompson said.
Doctor's found that the lump was fairly large and began chemotherapy soon after.
"They wanted to do chemotherapy first so they could see how the tumor responded to the treatment, and that made all of the sense in the world to us," Thompson said.
She took four rounds of chemotherapy initially. When it came time for her mastectomy, all that was left was scar tissue. After her surgery, Thompson took four more rounds of chemotherapy and 30 days of radiation as a precautionary measure.
"It [the diagnosis and the treatment] was devastating, but I was just glad to be here," she said.
Now that more than a decade has passed, Thompson is thankful for finding her cancer when she did so it could be treated.
"Self-exam definitely saved my life because routine mammograms are easy to put off and reschedule," Thompson said.
She added that early detection is the key, and that there are new treatment options if they catch the disease early enough.
"I know a lot of people who have caught their cancer during self-exams."
Today, Thompson stresses the importance of breast self-exams in conjunction with annual doctor visits and routine mammograms.
For more information on breast cancer or other types of cancer, visit www.acs.org.