Every October, America celebrates Breast Cancer Awareness Month in an effort to raise the public consciousness about a disease that has impacted millions among us.
Just this week Julia Louis-Dreyfus, star of “Seinfeld” and “Veep,” announced that she has been diagnosed with breast cancer. In Brown County, “Pink Out” football games and fundraisers bring attention to local survivors and fighters. But at the Brownwood Regional Medical Center Outpatient Imaging & Breast Center, Tracy Ledbetter and Teresa Morris have been working for years to promote and perform yearly mammograms for all women over 40, no matter the month.
Ledbetter serves as the center’s office supervisor, and Morris is the lead mammographer. Morris said when it comes to mammograms, her job involves “everything from A to Z.”
“We start with scheduling the patients, and we go through and get all their history,” she said. “Once we do the mammogram it gets read, we check the reports and send them a letter with the results.”
Ledbetter said the center sends a results letter, in “plain language,” to every patient who has a mammogram regardless of the result. They also follow up with patients, especially those with abnormalities, to make sure they follow through on the next steps.
She said the center handles both routine screenings and diagnostics, which happen after a possible symptom or sign has been discovered. “With those, the doctor’s waiting and he looks at the films as we take them,” Morris said. “We usually have an answer before they leave.”
The key to breast cancer treatment, the women said, is to catch the disease in its early stages. They recommend yearly screenings for all women over 40, as well as monthly self-examinations. “If we find them early enough, we can save their breasts and save their life,” Ledbetter said. “We don’t want to wait until the patient is actually feeling something. We can find it as small as a grain of salt.”
Women with a family history of breast cancer are at increased risk of contracting the disease, making their screenings doubly important, they said. And despite the public perception, men can also contract it. “The very first mammogram I ever did was in 1973, and it was on a man who had breast cancer,” Morris said.
Morris and Ledbetter said October is a busy time for them, as they give annual talks at Brown County locations like Hamilton’s and Walmart to promote yearly mammograms. They said public consciousness of the disease has increased dramatically since they began screenings.
“The more that we talk about it, the more women will come get screened,” Morris said. “And the more women get screened, the more we can find and prevent.”
The Outpatient Imaging & Breast Center can be reached at 325-641-9498. It is located at 105 Streckert Dr. in Brownwood.