Catherine Roberts knew her chances of being diagnosed with breast cancer were high. It was a family heirloom of sorts — her great grandmother, grandmother, mother and aunt have all been diagnosed with the disease.
It’s why the Beverly resident and mother of four started preventive care as early as possible. Now 41, Roberts was diligent with self-exams, had genetic testing and started receiving annual mammograms in her mid-30s, five years earlier than the recommended age of 40. She stays in shape and eats healthy. But even with all her focus on prevention and early detection, Roberts was still in shock after a routine mammogram at Lahey Outpatient Center, Danvers, Breast Health Center.
“In the back of my head I was always preparing for a day like that,” Roberts said. “But really you can never quite prepare for the news.”
That mammogram found a cancerous tumor on her breast.
It was caught early. And Roberts only needed radiation and medication — no chemotherapy. But even with her watchful eye on early detection, Roberts had no idea this particular visit to the Lahey Outpatient Breast Center in Danvers would result in such a life-altering event.
“I had no idea I had a lump,” Roberts said. “I didn’t feel anything. Catching it early was certainly a blessing.”
And for women who have no family history, according to Kim Willis, Nurse Practitioner and Certified Breast Patient Navigator at Lahey Outpatient Center, Danvers, Breast Health Center, it’s why self-examination and regular doctor’s appointments are so critical.
“Early detection and prevention is the goal in educating women on breast health and their personal risk of breast cancer,” said Willis. “We can cure breast cancer if it is found early. Guiding women in the correct way of doing a self breast exam, advocating for clinical breast exams with their yearly physicals, and knowing when to start annual screening mammograms are critical to early detection of breast cancer.”
Roberts knows she was lucky. She now has a breast MRI and mammogram every six months. And her four children are one of the biggest reasons why.
“It’s not just me I need to think about,” Roberts said. “I have four kids and they’re the ones that keep me going. Being diagnosed rattles you. I don’t know if that will ever go away. I still get emotional when I think about it, but I’m grateful. I know how lucky and fortunate I am.”