Tens of thousands will gather in downtown West Palm Beach Saturday morning for the 25th running of the Komen South Florida Race for the Cure.
Breast cancer survivors, current patients, those who’ve lost loved ones.
Their journeys will, of course, have been wholly unique — but they’ll all have at least one thing in common: The diagnosis that changed their lives started with a simple mammogram.
Since its creation more than three decades ago, one of Komen’s primary goals has always been to provide education about, and fundraising for, mammograms — especially for the underprivileged.
And, despite the medical community’s ever-changing recommendations about what age women should begin having annual mammograms, there’s no denying that they do save lives.
Especially in the elderly.
Recently published study
Dr. Charles H. Hennekens, a professor and senior academic advisor to the dean in the Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine at Florida Atlantic University, was the senior author of a new mammogram/mortality study recently published in the American Journal of Medicine.
The study, which Hennekens collaborated on with colleagues from Baylor College of Medicine and Meharry Medical College, used data from Medicare administrative claims filed over a 14-year period (1995-2009).
Some 64,000 claims (approximately 59,000 white women and 5,000 black women) for those ages 69 to 84 were compared.
“We found that both black and white women 75 to 84 years old who had an annual mammogram had a three times lower 10-year breast cancer mortality rate than corresponding women who had either biennial mammograms, irregular mammograms or no mammograms,” says Hennekens, a medical doctor and one of the world’s foremost researchers on preventive medicine.
In other words, there’s no such thing as being “too old” to worry about having an annual mammogram (which is fully covered for those on Medicare). Despite this, Hennekens notes that some 45 percent of white women and 55 percent of black women in the claims he studied neglected to have annual mammograms.
An octogenarian’s journey
Need further proof of breast cancer being a lifelong threat?
Consider the case of 87-year-old Mary Dailey.
In October, the vibrant Jupiter grandmother of nine became one of the first patients treated at Jupiter Medical Center’s multidisciplinary breast cancer “clinic” — which utilizes a “university model” for treating breast cancer patients.
This meant that Dailey, who was diagnosed with an early-stage tumor, met separately with seven specialists within a two-hour appointment window.
She and her team — which included an oncology surgeon, reconstructive plastic surgeon, medical oncologist, radiation oncologist, physical therapist, nutritionist and medical researcher — collaborated on deciding the best course of action.
“I was very impressed with how well-organized and prepared they all were.”
In late October, Dailey underwent electron beam intraoperative radiation therapy (e-IORT) — that is, a lumpectomy combined with a brief, highly concentrated dose of targeted radiation, all of which was performed while she was on the operating table.
Dailey, now cancer-free, reports that “I was never in any pain afterwards.”
She’s also a prime example of how mammograms save the lives of women of all ages.