A breast cancer survivor could have been diagnosed sooner, but when she first found a lump, she didn’t know she could ask for a 3-D mammogram, which is critical in diagnosing breast cancer in patients like her.
Angela Ball started getting yearly mammograms four years ago, at age 38. That’s younger than doctors usually suggest, but she started early because African-American women have a higher risk of developing breast cancer at a younger age.
“They tend to get it under the age of 50 more often than white women, and with getting it under the age of 50 it does tend to be more aggressive,” said Dr. Regina Hampton of Doctor's Community Hospital in Prince George's County, Maryland.
When Ball felt a lump, she quickly investigated.
“They called me back and they told me, ‘You're going to need follow-up imaging,’ and a couple weeks later I was told everything was normal,” she said.
Soon she felt pain in the same breast, and even though the tests had just come back negative, she went back to her gynaecologist, who wisely sent her for another mammogram and ultrasound.
“And that time they determined there was a suspicious finding,” Ball said. “And then I went straight to get a biopsy examination and within days, I had been diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer.”
Hampton said a critical tool in getting accurate diagnoses for women with dense breasts is 3-D mammograms.
“Three-D mammography has been found to find 20-to-30 percent more cancers and find them at earlier stages,” Hampton said.
Ball said had she known a 3-D mammogram was an available and better option, she would have had that first.
“The thing that bothered me was that no one had informed of my right to get a 3-D examination, and apparently the 3-D exams are going to be most beneficial for patient with dense breasts,” she said.
Ball’s cancer free, now.
“I knew that I wanted to do the bilateral mastectomy because of the fact when I had my MRI, multiple tumors were presented and it was going to be very difficult to proceed with a lumpectomy,” she said.
She wants to get word out to other women like her who know they have dense breast tissue.
“So that's been my message since that false diagnosis,” she said. “If you know you have dense breasts get the 3-D imaging.”
Ball’s story teaches another lesson: Trust your instincts when it comes to your own health. If you're uncertain about something, ask more questions, get a second opinion and be your own advocate.
“If I had waited until my next mammogram the following October, I don't know how far advanced would have been,” she said.
Reported by Doreen Gentzler, produced by Christina Romano, and edited by Perkins Broussard.