Check Up 13: Two-time breast cancer survivor shares her new perspective

Photo: WTHR
Check Up 13 - Breast Cancer Awareness
Check Up 13: Mammograms

INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) - Pat Chaja wants to make sure her breast cancer doesn't come back and her doctor says her recent weight loss will help.

"Remember, your breast cancer is hormone-fed, so the one thing in the body that makes hormones is fat outside of the ovaries. By losing the 40 pounds, in reality, you actually reduced your risk of getting another hormone-fed occurrence by another 21 to 25 percent," Dr. Erica Giblin told Chaja.

Giblin, a breast surgeon at Ascension St Vincent, said it was clear that Pat's cancer was growing for some time before a current image was taken.

For a hormone-positive breast cancer like she had, two to five years, even the fastest-growing breast cancers, which are called triple-negative, those on average have been present for six to nine months before a mammogram sees it, so that is why it would be great if you get your mammogram before you feel it," Giblin said.

"I was not one of those patients that went every year for a mammogram, I just didn't I didn't have time. I didn't have insurance. I forgot. I had a million excuses. I thought it was going to hurt, you know, just a million reasons not to and then when I finally saw that I'm like 'oh, you know should have gone," said Chaja.

Chaja finally went in after detecting dimpling in her skin on her breast. She opted for a mastectomy, and in her follow-up surveillance appointments, another mass was detected on the same side.

While the incidence of getting breast cancer of a mastectomy is low, it's approximately one to five percent it is not zero," Giblin said. "When a surgeon does a mastectomy, a lot of people think 'well, you are removing the breast' and I get it but we are removing all of the breast tissue we can see. There are microscopic breast cells that are underneath the skin that are against the muscle that we can't see. We don't have x-ray vision. We are still surgeons, we are going along anatomic boundaries, so there is a very small amount of breast tissue that is left behind that could that potentially develop into breast cancer, albeit low statistics, but can it? Yeah."

Now a two-time survivor, Chaja has a new perspective. She is traveling, reconnecting with friends and says 2019 is her year to take control.

"I wish I hadn't waited so long, but now that we are there and we are doing it, it's a blast and I won't ever put anything off again," Chaja said.

If you have been putting off you mammogram, we want to make it easy for you to register this month. For Check Up 13, you may register for a $149 discounted screening, courtesy Ascension St. Vincent at these locations.

To qualify, you must be 40 or older and not have had a mammogram in the last 12 months.

Call the hotline or register online.

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