Local doctors clear up mammogram confusion

There's a lot of talk about the right age to get mammograms. Even the American Cancer Society's website is confusing on the topic. But a group of doctors -- who are also breast cancer survivors -- say there shouldn't be any confusion.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- There’s a lot of talk about the right age to get mammograms.

Even the American Cancer Society’s website is confusing on the topic.

But a group of doctors -- who are also breast cancer survivors -- say there shouldn't be any confusion. 

A Charlotte radiologist felt so strongly about it, she produced a video in hopes of saving lives. 

Dr. Michelle Rivera paints whimsical dogs as a hobby. She considers it her therapy.

"It's very tough," Dr. Rivera said. "Emotionally draining for everyone." 

Because her job is literally telling women they have breast cancer.

“It’s life-changing for them,” she said.

Rivera is a Harvard Medical School graduate. A doctor and radiologist, she reads mammograms to determine if it’s cancer and then has to deliver the news.

Not long ago, her friend -- also a doctor -- came to her for advice after she had gone for a mammogram.

"I went in for a routine screening," said Dr. Sheena Kapadia.

Dr. Kapadia was diagnosed with breast cancer two years ago.

“I just sat there," she said. "Couldn't believe that’s what she was saying. It wasn't registering in my mind."

These women –- Charlotte doctors and friends -- are now part of a video they’re hoping every woman will see. The video features four women doctors, all breast cancer survivors who detected their cancers thanks to screenings.

“I feel the medical community has an imperative to send out clear simple information that patients can trust," Rivera said.

They’re frustrated because of confusing messages like this from the American cancer society. Until two years ago, the organization said all women should get annual screenings starting at 40. Now they say you can do it "if you want to,” but the official recommendation is to start at 45.

These doctors believe the earlier mammograms pay off.

“When women start screening at 40 and come back every year, chances of dying from breast cancer are reduced between 30 and 40 percent,” Dr. Kapadia said.

Kapadia’s screening found her cancer so early, all she needed was a lumpectomy. No chemo, no radiation or no surgery.

A far cry from what she first imagined when she was diagnosed.

“What this is going to mean for my life, for my kids," she said. "I have two girls, for my family... all thoughts going through my head.”

She said the experience has made her a better doctor and even more of an advocate for her patients. She tells all women to start getting screened at 40, despite conflicting recommendations.

“Starting screening at 40 and doing it every year saves the most lives,” she said.

© 2017 WCNC.COM


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