October 1, 2013

Overdue mammogram saves woman's life

Reminder for an overdue mammogram gives Lori Silva the opportunity to see her grandchildren.

MODESTO, Calif. — It’s easy to let life’s responsibilities get in the way of a regular mammogram, but taking the time to have this health screening can be the difference between life and death.

Fifty-year-old Lori Silva was leaving a doctor’s appointment for her allergies at Kaiser Permanente Modesto Medical Center when a nurse came running down the hall. Lori assumed the nurse was looking for the doctor, but she was wrong.

“You,” the nurse had said, pointing at Lori. “I want you.”

The nurse’s name was Elizabeth and she had chased Lori down the hall to remind her to make an appointment for a mammogram after Lori was flagged as “overdue” in Kaiser Permanente’s electronic health record, Kaiser Permanente HealthConnect®.

Lori was surprised and encouraged by Elizabeth’s proactive nature and she scheduled her mammogram. Lori had her screening just in time: when she went in for her appointment, the mammogram revealed early stages of breast cancer.

"As women, we tend to put others before ourselves," said Pierson Gladney, MD, an oncologist with Kaiser Permanente of Georgia. "But if you want to be there for your loved ones, you have to first take care for yourself. Contact your primary care doctor and make sure that you're up to date on screenings, including mammograms. With preventive care, breast cancer can be detected early. The sooner we can detect it, the more likely we are to be able to treat it."

A mammogram is an X-ray of the breast that detects tumors or other abnormalities that could contain cancer. Having regular mammograms boosts a woman’s chance of finding cancer in its earliest stages when it’s easier to treat, or even before it turns cancerous.

It was a busy schedule that kept Lori from her regular mammogram appointment, but for many women, the culprit is far more deeply rooted: fear.

Opting out of a regular mammogram because of fear can be dangerous, even deadly,” said Dennis Heffern, LCSW, oncology care coordinator with Kaiser Permanente Colorado. “But it’s not uncommon. Women experience many kinds of fear when it comes to screening for breast cancer.”

Breaking down the barriers to regular mammogram screenings can allow for a long and healthy life that may not be possible without early detection. Lori’s mammogram saved her life. And while the road to recovery wasn’t easy, detecting the breast cancer early on led to successful treatment and recovery.

Now cancer-free, Lori is grateful for Elizabeth, whose encouragement to get a mammogram ultimately saved her life.

“I’m alive, I’m cancer-free, and I’m here to see my beautiful grandchildren,” Lori said. “If you have to go through what I went through, I am so blessed I was with Kaiser Permanente.”

To watch Lori’s story and learn more about breast cancer screenings, visit the Kaiser Permanente Care Stories blog at kp.org/carestories.

About Kaiser Permanente

Kaiser Permanente is committed to helping shape the future of health care. We are recognized as one of America’s leading health care providers and not-for-profit health plans. Founded in 1945, our mission is to provide high-quality, affordable health care services and to improve the health of our members and the communities we serve. We currently serve more than 9.1 million members in nine states and the District of Columbia. Care for members and patients is focused on their total health and guided by their personal physicians, specialists and team of caregivers. Our expert and caring medical teams are empowered and supported by industry-leading technology advances and tools for health promotion, disease prevention, state-of-the-art care delivery and world-class chronic disease management. Kaiser Permanente is dedicated to care innovations, clinical research, health education and the support of community health.