For a few years after turning 40, Diana Hong-Elsey put off getting an annual mammogram. So when she was offered a free mammogram at work, Diana, who was then 46 and knew she had dense breasts, decided it was time.
That mammogram showed a few suspicious areas in both breasts, so she went for biopsies. The results were benign, but her doctor thought what was in her right breast was suspicious enough to merit a lumpectomy to prevent it from progressing. Diana scheduled the surgery, and then the pandemic hit—delaying elective procedures like hers.
Several months later, when Diana’s surgery was back on, she got another mammogram. This time, doctors found ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), a noninvasive precursor of breast cancer that’s known as stage 0, elsewhere in her breast.
“DCIS is really the best-case scenario, so when they told me, I just thought, OK, I’m going to get through this. It’s all good,” she said. “I was surprised, but then not, because breast cancer is so common.”
Diana had two surgeries in the summer, followed by 16 rounds of radiation. She was thrilled and relieved to end 2020 on a high note with DCIS behind her. Today she takes hormonal therapy and goes for routine screening.
Being diagnosed with DCIS made Diana more conscious about her health, and she found it gratifying to open up about her experience on social media to encourage others to take care of their breast health.
“Friends and acquaintances saw my posts and asked me questions about mammograms and my experience, and others told me they were going through similar things,” she said. “That was really rewarding.”
Diana is especially grateful that she was diagnosed at stage 0—and supports research because she wants other women to have the same experience.
“20 years ago, if a woman had breast cancer, there was a higher chance she would die from it,” she said. “The severity of what breast cancer is, and our understanding of the disease, has changed, and BCRF has been a part of that. The fact that I was able to catch this very early is the reason I was able to recover.”
Read more inspiring stories from BCRF’s Research Is the Reason storytelling initiative here.
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