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Don't skip a screening: doctors and advocates share importance of regular mammograms

Posted at 5:33 PM, Oct 22, 2021

TAMPA, Fla. — It’s a simple screening that could save your life: a mammogram. Doctors and breast cancer awareness advocates in the Tampa Bay area are reminding people even during the pandemic, you still need to get your regular screening.

For Samara Treadwell, shining a light on breast cancer screenings is personal. Her family lost her aunt to a battle with a late-stage breast cancer.

“Shortly after that, I also lost my mother-in-law to the same type of battle,” said Treadwell. “Both of them had had their baseline mammograms at an appropriate age, but had terrible experiences, and both chose not to have another mammogram.”

Treadwell is the Operations Manager for BayCare Outpatient Imaging in Land O’Lakes. Her mission is now to turn an exam room into a welcoming environment, help ease any fear and anxiety around mammograms, and make the process a positive one so patients don’t decide to skip a screening.

“What I did not want was one more person, one more mom, one more sister, one more daughter to go through the same thing that my family experienced, and I didn’t want another patient to go through a door and have a terrible experience and choose never to go back,” said Treadwell. “I wanted to make sure that every single patient that walked through my door came back year after year after year after year and that they had an amazing experience every single time.”

Treadwell walked ABC Action News through the process at BayCare’s HealthHub in South Tampa. She showed how during a mammogram, they’ll typically take four pictures, two of each breast, with each picture taking about 12 seconds. She says the entire process takes about 15 minutes.

“I know that this can be anxiety inducing, but we have a great staff here that helps patients through every step of the way, make sure that they’re comfortable,” said Dr. Lana Bellon, a radiologist at BayCare. “There’s really minimal discomfort associated with a screening mammogram.”

Dr. Bellon recommends every woman 40 years or older get an annual screening mammogram if they’re asymptomatic, further explaining if you have any specific concerns or are at higher risk, an earlier screening or evaluation may be necessary.

Bellon stressed that early detection is key.

“About 95 percent of cancers are curable if found early, so we want to find them early if possible,” said Dr. Bellon. “Screening mammogram also decreases mortality rates significantly. There’s a 40 percent decrease in mortality rate.”

Whether it’s a fear of discomfort or even the pandemic, advocates say don’t put it off, reminding people to put your health first.

“It is uncomfortable, but it’s 12 seconds of uncomfortable that could save a life,” said Treadwell.