Carol Allen spends time with her great-granddaughter, Alyvia Cox, 4, at her home north of Craig. Allen was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2005 when it was detected during a routine mammogram. She credits the screening with saving her life. October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and The Memorial Hospital in Craig is offering discounted mammograms that could help more people like Allen from falling to the disease.

Photo by Bridget Manley

Carol Allen spends time with her great-granddaughter, Alyvia Cox, 4, at her home north of Craig. Allen was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2005 when it was detected during a routine mammogram. She credits the screening with saving her life. October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and The Memorial Hospital in Craig is offering discounted mammograms that could help more people like Allen from falling to the disease.

Survivor: early breast cancer detection key to beating disease

At a glance ...

Reduced rate mammograms at The Memorial Hospital in Craig

• TMH offering discounted mammograms in October.

• Reduced-rate mammograms will cost $80.

• Mammograms normally cost about $350.

• Program coincides with Breast Cancer Awareness Month and is open to everyone.

• Participants must first get a doctor’s order to get a mammogram.

• Program covers screening, not diagnostic, mammograms.

• For more information, call Jennifer Riley, TMH chief of organizational excellence, at 826-3109.

Quotable

“Just do it. Be diligent, because early detection is definitely the key to survival.”

— Carol Allen, breast cancer survivor, Craig resident about the importance of regular mammograms

The mammogram Carol Allen had in 2005 was supposed to have been routine.

Allen, who has lived in Craig now for nearly 15 years, got mammograms regularly, although she didn’t expect they would reveal any trace of breast cancer. After all, there was no history of the disease in her family.

But on that day six years ago, the unexpected became reality. It was through that mammogram Allen learned she had cancer in both breasts.

Allen is still battling a metastasized form of the disease, yet she has hope. Cancer, she said, is not a death sentence.

But, she believes that may have been different if she hadn’t had regular mammograms.

“If I had skipped a year, I’d probably be dead,” she said.

For women who are wondering whether they should get a mammogram, Allen had a piece of advice.

“Just do it,” she said. “Be diligent, because early detection is definitely the key to survival.”

Early detection crucial

In conjunction with Breast Cancer Awareness Month, The Memorial Hospital is offering mammograms at a reduced rate throughout the month of October, which could allow more women to have the potentially life-saving screening.

Normally, mammograms cost about $350, said Jennifer Riley, TMH chief of organizational excellence. But in October, the hospital is offering them for $80, for a savings of about $270.

The program is open to anyone, and since none of the cost is billed to insurance, it's especially helpful for residents who have high deductibles or no insurance, Riley said.

“It’s an important test,” she added.

Women 40 and older should have a mammogram every year, according to the Susan G. Komen for the Cure’s website.

Mammography uses X-rays to reveal cancers that are too small to feel, the organization reported. A screening mammogram takes about 15 minutes, but its effects can be lasting and potentially life saving.

Mammography can reveal cancer early, when it is most responsive to treatment, and it’s the best screening tool available to detect the deadly disease, the organization reported.

Nearly 40,600 women died of breast cancer in 2007, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

This year alone, breast cancer is estimated to take the lives of another 39,520 women in the U.S., Susan G. Komen for the Cure reported.

The organization estimates nearly 230,500 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be found this year.

‘So many blessings’

As Allen can tell you, cancer is a stealthy disease. It can disappear, only to resurface later in another form.

When Allen was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2005, her first thought was simple: “How do we get rid of it?” she said.

The answer was biopsies, lumpectomies and radiation at Shaw Cancer Center in Avon.

Eventually, Allen was declared cancer-free.

That is, until last year, when she learned the breast cancer had metastasized, or spread, into her spine. The cancer weakened the bones there, and she’s had to use a wheelchair after a particularly painful episode recently, she said.

Allen could have interpreted these developments in her life as a gradual descent into a life haunted by illness.

But, she doesn’t see it that way.

“I’m more appreciative,” she said, then her eyes filled with tears.

“This always makes me cry,” she said.

She’s more appreciative now of her friends and family, which includes her daughter, Leni Allen, of Craig; son Dan Allen, of Phippsburg and his wife, Susann; granddaughter Tara Cox, and great-granddaughter Alyvia Cox, 4.

And then, there are the little things, like noticing when people are kind, she said, and “just the different people that come into your life that is just what you need at the moment,” she said.

Allen believes she wouldn’t have experienced any of this had she not been diagnosed with cancer, she said.

And, in that respect, she’s thankful.

“With the cancer, there have been so many blessings,” she said, adding, “And there are so many blessings every day.”

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