"No family history. No reason to think I had breast cancer." That's why 52-year-old Debbie Grabowski was shocked to learn, after her last mammogram, that she needed a biopsy.
The results? Debbie had stage one breast cancer.
"It took a while to wrap my head around it because I had no issues. I had no symptoms. I felt like I was in great health. Even my gynecologist, when she examined me, didn't feel anything. I do self exams from time to time, I felt nothing."
What Debbie and her doctors couldn't feel did show up in a 3D mammogram. Dr. Atsuko Okabe at MedStar Health Bel Air Medical Campus, says 3D mammograms are much more sophisticated in detecting abnormalities than the standard 2D images.
"So what that allows us to see better is an abnormality in the breast. So if a woman has very glandular, or we use the word dense breasts, mammograms may not pick up things very well because an abnormality, which is white, is right behind the normal breast tissue which is also white," Okabe said.
Mammograms are another step in the breast cancer detection process, along with self-exams and yearly check-ups with your doctor. Even if you don't have family history of breast cancer, it doesn't mean your chances of getting it aren't there, "Most breast cancers aren't inherited. It just happens. In fact, probably 70-80% of women diagnosed with breast cancer have no family history whatsoever," Dr. Okabe explains.
Debbie is grateful they caught the cancer early. She had a lumpectomy and will soon go through radiation. Her message to everyone, get checked, "It’s just important for everyone to know particularly with October being breast cancer awareness month to encourage other people in your life to always be proactive with their health and certainly go for screenings of all kinds particularly the mammogram for women and men because it can make a big difference."