Breast cancer survivor advocates for early screening

ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - Dr. Heather Kaufman knows the importance of early screening, and hopes that other women will recognize that as well.

“I went and had imaging done, and it showed that it was a solid mass," Kaufman said. "Which was biopsied and it came back positive for breast cancer.”

Kaufman, who is a podiatrist with Anchorage Foot & Ankle Clinic, said that she discovered a lump on her breast in the shower.

“If something doesn't feel right, go get it checked,” she said. “I ignored mine for about a month.”

She went through chemotherapy and radiation, and she said soon, she is expecting to be cancer free.

Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among all Alaskans, according to Ladies First, an Alaska program that assists eligible Alaskans get breast and cervical health screenings.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and local physicians want the public to know the importance of getting checked.

"The important thing we're looking to do is have women come in for their annual screenings when they are of adequate age,” said John Halligan, the Medical Director of Radiation Oncology at Providence Alaska Medical Center. “It’s 40 for most women. For some women, age 50 is appropriate for some of the guidelines. But if women have a family history of early breast cancer, they should start their screenings about 10 years earlier than the youngest family member who had breast cancer."

If you want to take a mammogram, but you’re not exactly sure where to start, the American Cancer Society has a patient navigator, to help connect Alaskans with affordable and even free resources.

“There’s absolutely options for a woman who wants a mammogram to get one,” said Charissa Habeger with the American Cancer Society.

One of the resources that offer free mammograms to enrollees is Ladies First.

Currently, 6,000 women are enrolled in the program, but the numbers of enrollees have been declining over the years, and so have the the rates of breast cancer screening, according to the program.

According to Ladies First, 95% of women who find breast cancer early survive.

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