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Centura Health on health: Early detection of breast cancer can save your life

"A mammogram can detect cancer sometimes as much as two years before it can be felt as a lump. Catching cancer at the earliest stage offers more treatment options, most notably women with early stage breast cancer are much less likely to need chemotherapy. "
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With the coronavirus and COVID-19 dominating health care discussions, it's easy to forget about preventative health care that is just as important. For all the women out there, the breast care team at Longmont United Women’s Imaging Center and Rocky Mountain Breast Specialists say that with infection prevention precautions in place, there is no need to delay getting a mammogram.  

Timely screening with mammograms has been shown to lead to the best outcomes for women diagnosed with breast cancer. Dr Gerlinde Tynan, breast surgeon at Rocky Mountain Breast Specialists, said, “We rely on mammography to find breast cancers at the earliest, most treatable stage.”  

A woman in the United States over the course of her lifetime has a 1 in 8 risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer. Breast cancer has a disproportionately negative impact on people of color and underserved communities in the U.S., in part due to lower rates of screening. However, the good news is early stage breast cancer is very treatable. 

A mammogram can detect cancer sometimes as much as two years before it can be felt as a lump. Catching cancer at the earliest stage offers more treatment options, most notably women with early stage breast cancer are much less likely to need chemotherapy. And if avoiding chemotherapy’s harsh side effects were not enough reason to get screened, just consider the American Cancer Society reports the five-year relative survival rate is 99% when breast cancer is detected early and is in the localized stage.  

National guidelines recommend that women start getting annual screening mammograms at age 40. Catching more cancers early by starting yearly screening at age 40 — rather than less frequent or later screening — increases the odds of successful treatment and preserving quality of life for women in treatment.  

“During this unprecedented time, it is more important than ever that we take care of ourselves,” said Dr. Hilarie Gutierrez, breast radiologist. “Our goal at Women’s Imaging Center is to save lives by detecting breast cancer as early as possible.” 

Gutierrez and her husband, Dr. Horacio Gutierrez, are fellowship-trained breast radiologists who have been living and practicing in Longmont for 16 years.  

The Women’s Imaging Center, the accredited Breast Center of Excellence at Longmont United Hospital, temporarily limited hours during the pandemic quarantine, but is again open five days a week, with new COVID safety measures. According to staff, all the appointments that were postponed during the shutdown have been rescheduled, and appointments are available now. 

“We are open for both screening and diagnostic mammograms,” said Lori Gardner, Women’s Imaging Center supervisor, meaning both routine screenings for women with no new symptoms, and diagnostic imaging to investigate an issue are being performed.

“Our safety measures can allow women to feel safe and comfortable to schedule their mammograms,” Gardner said. 

Even in an uncertain time like this, women should feel safe to prioritize their health and wellness. Mammographer RaeNee Brooks said, “We’re making it safe for you to get your mammogram and get peace of mind.”  

To schedule a mammogram at the Women's Imaging Center, call Centura Scheduling at 303-651-5121. If you have questions about the Women's Imaging Center or mammograms, call 303-651-5161. 

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If you have topics, questions or concerns you would like addressed in this column, email joelmalecka@centura.org

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Editor’s note: The Longmont Leader accepts contributions, photos, and op-eds for publication from community members, business leaders and public officials on local topics. Publication will be at the discretion of the editor and published opinions do not represent the views of The Longmont Leader or its staff. To submit a contribution, email info@longmontleader.com.




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