Marilyn Agee, MD, a primary care physician at Mercy Health — Renaissance Place Family Medicine, woke up on Christmas morning in 2012 and felt a lump on the outside of her left breast.
“I thought it was a cyst because it came on so suddenly and I had a mammogram three weeks prior,” she shares. “I still went to my gynecologist the next day though and had an ultrasound, then an MRI. I was then diagnosed with metaplastic invasive ductal carcinoma, triple-negative, a form of breast cancer.”
Dr. Agee was initially very shocked with the diagnosis as she feels she is a very healthy person.
“I ran marathons, biked and competed in cycling events. My family also has no prior history of breast cancer,” she reveals.
As a primary care physician, Dr. Agee had frequently ordered mammograms for her patients and would sometimes have to tell them if they have breast cancer. Breast cancer is a very emotional journey, and Dr. Agee had no idea what it was going to be like going through it herself.
“Now, having had cancer myself, it has brought me much closer to my patients,” she says. “I always make myself available to patients if they have any questions or concerns.”
Dr. Agee feels that the most challenging part of her cancer diagnosis was staying positive. While it wasn’t always easy, Dr. Agee found great support in her family and friends.
“I recommend always bringing a friend or family members to all tests and procedures,” she advises.
Furthermore, Dr. Agee emphasizes that the best option to detect early breast cancer is by getting an annual mammogram.
“If a woman is at high risk, such as has a family history of breast cancer, dense breast tissue or prior biopsies, further imaging in the form of MRI or ultrasound may be recommended,” she says. “I would discuss these with your health care provider and push insurance companies to cover these extra tests.”
Dr. Agee adds, “I recommend women and men of all ages to be aware of any changes in their breasts and have an exam and discussion with their provider. Just having breasts is a risk factor for breast cancer!”