Fight Over Fear: Ayesha Khan on the importance of mammograms in fighting breast cancer
WASHINGTON - It was a first time mammogram that revealed to FOX 5's Ayesha Khan that she had breast cancer. That mammogram - she said - is what she believes saved her life.
A year later - after a courageous fight and 16 rounds of chemotherapy - she returned to that same clinic in Montgomery County for a second mammogram.
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Here's her story about that visit:
A flood of not so pleasant memories came rushing back as I returned to Community Radiology and Associates in Germantown to get a second mammogram.
After all, it was only a year ago, when my world came crashing down.
The mammogram showed a large mass in my right breast which turned out to be stage three cancer.
I felt like time had just stopped while I recovered from a single mastectomy to remove the cancerous tumor.
Then came 16 grueling rounds of chemo, then radiation and now a ten-year regimen of a twice a day pill to reduce the chances of the cancer returning.
But the truth is, going forward, it will take more than just daily medication.
FOX 5'S AYESHA KHAN INSPIRING OTHERS TO GET TESTED FOR BREAST CANCER
Every year, I will have to go through what I believe, is a very uncomfortable process of compression and lots of squeezing from various angles.
This way, my doctors can keep checking for anything suspicious that might pop up in my left breast.
Dr. Janet Storella with Community Radiology Associates gave me the good news. An all clear after a review of that second mammogram! But because I've had cancer I'm considered high risk
I got my results pretty quickly on the same day -- but that wouldn't be the case for everyone as there are two different types of exams: a screening and a diagnostic.
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"Screening is for women who are asymptotic," explained Dr. Storella, "you don't have a lump, you don't have discharge, we are looking for a disease that as far as we know otherwise you don't have, and you don't have any symptoms. Diagnostic exams are for women who have symptoms."
While at the clinic, I learned that during peak COVID-19, many people stopped getting breast screenings, which doctors say is dangerous, considering they are seeing an uptick in younger people getting the disease.
"I would tell you it's troubling to me as well," said Dr. Storella, "I'm seeing more and more women under 40 or in their 30s who are developing breast cancer."
Dr. Storella said, if women want to know if she is at higher risk and if she needs more screenings other than a yearly mammogram, then she can get a formal risk assessment. That means, a doctor can take a very detailed history of a woman's health to determine their personal level of risk. She said, women who have family history are at a higher risk. Also, women who are of Ashkenazi Jewish descent have a higher risk of developing breast cancer and there is a dense population of Ashkenazi Jewish descent in Montgomery County.
You can use the Breast Cancer Risk Assessment Tool to take a risk assessment online.