Around her 40th birthday, Janelle Fields, a cath lab technologist at Mercy Health – St. Rita’s Medical Center, went in for her first-ever routine mammogram at the women’s wellness center. Friends and colleagues had told her that it was common for the mammogram to involve several different views, followed by an ultrasound. So, Janelle wasn’t worried when that’s what was recommended by her doctors.
However, the following day she had a biopsy, and in less than 24 hours she received results stating a diagnosis she had not expected: breast cancer.
“Disbelief, dumbfounded, stunned,” Janelle recalls. “Those were just a few of the many emotions flowing though me. No way could my first mammogram lead me to a breast cancer diagnosis. I have 4-year-old twins that count on me, how can I have cancer?”
The nurse navigator at the Women’s Center organized a visit with the breast cancer board that very week where Janelle met with the surgical, oncology and radiology teams. Together, with studies to guide them, they decided a lumpectomy with radiation was the best path forward for her treatment plan.
Janelle speaks highly of her experience with the Women’s Center, stating that the doctors and other team members were outstanding and so quick to diagnose her breast cancer.
“They were on top of everything,” she says. “We came up with a plan together and that’s the course of treatment I followed. Today, I am four years cancer free!”
One of the perks of working for our ministry was being able to walk across the street to her radiation therapy treatments at Mercy Health – Allison Radiation Oncology. For her, this far outweighed traveling long distances for treatments.
“Cancer Survivors Day, taking place on June 4, is a perfect day to reflect on another year of life for me,” Janelle shares. “I am thankful for my family, friends and coworkers that helped me beat cancer. I’m also grateful for the excellent care and compassion from all the doctors and staff involved that played a major role in my surviving. I cannot thank them enough! It’s a day to celebrate for sure in my household. Life is so very precious.”
Just last month, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force lowered the recommended age for breast cancer screening mammography from 50 to 40. This change should help to detect breast cancer earlier in women after studies show newly reported cases of cancer diagnoses declined in 2020 compared to prior years during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Whenever I hear of a woman turning 40, I tell them my story and encourage them to run – not walk – to their first mammograms,” Janelle shares. “Screening for breast cancer saved my life … it is so important. I cannot stress it enough, get your mammograms every year, ladies. Read the studies: mammograms save lives. I am living proof.”