Positively Pink: Woman’s cancer diagnosis detected early thanks to annual mammogram

Positively Pink

(WTNH) — In this Positively Pink series, we are educating and informing you about some of the latest advances in breast cancer treatment. We introduce you to a Connecticut woman whose cancer was detected early thanks to her regular routine of annual mammograms.

Carmen Brooks, a breast cancer survivor, told News 8, “They had found a small tumor under my left breast. When they found it they said they found a tumor but they wanted to biopsy it.”

Ultimately the lump was determined to be cancerous. She was ready to get it treated with a lumpectomy.

“Before you know it, I was having the surgery. After the surgery, I was hooked up with Dr. Zelkowitz.”

Dr. Richard Zelkowitz is a Hartford Healthcare physician at Saint Vincent Medical Center and is part of Brooks’ treatment team. He described to News 8, “She did not need to lose her breast, which, again, most women don’t need to do. And because of newer technologies, she didn’t need chemotherapy. She had radiation.”

“Thank God I didn’t have to do chemo,” said Brooks. “I had to do radiation for a month, but after that I’m good. I’m fine. I’m healthy. I’m happy.”

Hartford Hospital’s Dr. Brigid Killelea was Brooks’ breast surgeon.

Dr. Killelea explained, “It was detected at such a small size it wasn’t even palpable yet, which means we couldn’t feel it with our fingers and we would never have known she had cancer if she hadn’t gone for that screening mammogram.”

Brooks’ story stands out in her mind because regardless of medical innovations over the years, the mammogram is still best.

“Screening mammography is absolutely the best test and the only test that’s been demonstrated to save lives from breast cancer. And it’s an important tool we need to keep using,” Dr. Killelea said.

“The world of breast cancer has changed dramatically,” said Dr. Zelkowitz. “We assumed that most people with mammographically detected breast cancer are going to be cured.”

Brooks has this appeal: “If I could just encourage any women that’s out there, men, too. Go get tested. Have your mammogram done. Have your physical done. You could save your life, and the life of a loved one.”

The doctors used a fairly new technology to examine Brooks’ breast tumor. It’s a genomic test called The Oncotype. They say tools like this have cut the number of patients getting chemotherapy by 40 percent. One of many newer developments.

Breast cancer is still one of the most common cancers among women worldwide. One in eight women in the United States will develop breast cancer in her lifetime. But with your help, there is hope for a cure.

The Connecticut Breast Health initiative helps provide grants for education and promising research right here in Connecticut. Find out more and how to donate on their website.

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