Avera Medical Minute: The importance of mammograms

Published: Oct. 17, 2022 at 10:52 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - As a mom of three, Karrie Garry has a busy life. But when she turned 40, her doctor insisted she make time to schedule a mammogram. The first images were a little concerning, leading to a wave of additional tests and callbacks. Ultimately, her doctor ordered a biopsy of the suspicious area.

“It was at that point I kind of thought this is making me a little nervous. And by Friday afternoon, Dr. Saloum had called me to tell me that that I had breast cancer. It felt like all the air got sucked out of me. It was just so surreal. I was 40 years old. I have no significant family history of breast cancer or any cancer at all. And it just it didn’t seem possible.” Said Garry

“So on that first mammogram, it was just a shade different. It was just a subtle finding. But her subsequent workup found that cancer.” Said Dr. Michelle Bryan, a breast surgeon with Avera Medical Group Comprehensive Breast Care.  “By the time she would have felt this. I’m not sure how advanced it would have been.”

With her diagnosis, Karrie began meeting with her team of doctors and specialists. Their combined approach laid out Karrie’s next steps.

“So we went through all of the options that were in front of me. It was just about gathering information. You go into that fight mode. I didn’t want to feel sorry for myself. I wanted to prepare myself to fight and get all of the knowledge that I could.” Said Garry.

“All breast cancer and really all cancers nowadays are a team approach. None of us do this by ourselves. Having a team that you work well and closely with is so important to good outcomes and that means that each person’s cancer treatment plan is very individual. We’ve had everyone in a group sitting together talking about it, coming up with the best plan for that person based on exactly what their tumor looks like.” Said Dr. Bryan.

Karrie’s best plan was shaped when genetic testing revealed an abnormality, putting her at high risk of developing breast cancer again. So doctors agreed a double mastectomy and aggressive chemotherapy were her next steps.

“It wasn’t the ideal decision. It wasn’t what I wanted. I understood the why behind it. And in my mind, I just thought, I don’t want to be this patient ever again in my life. So I want to know that I did everything that I could do to prevent reoccurrence within my power.” Said Garry.

“Really, that ability to get the treatment upfront before it had spread throughout her body is the life changing part here is that chemotherapy was aimed again at keeping it from coming back everywhere else in the body because metastatic carcinoma is not curable. Right. It is treatable, but not curable. At this point, with everything removed, we can say Kerry’s had a cure, which is wonderful.”

It’s what every cancer patient wants to hear. And for Karrie, the path to a cure began with her first appointment.

“Getting this mammogram saved my life. I had three different doctors tell me that because it was in my lymph nodes, had I waited even a year, this could have been everywhere, and this would be a much darker story. So my mammogram absolutely saved my life. And I would tell every woman that I encounter to get your mammogram.” Said Garry.

The American Cancer Society recommends annual mammograms for women starting at age 40 to catch disease in its early stages. For more information on how to schedule your own mammogram, just go to www.Avera.org/MedicalMinute.