If Hamilton resident Mimma Musitano could turn back time, she’d return to the year she turned 50 and start breast screening as part of her routine medical care through the Ontario Breast Screening Program (OBSP).
“I didn’t think I needed a mammogram because I felt healthy and didn’t have a family history of breast cancer,” said Mimma, 59, who discovered a large mass in her left breast two years ago.
The OBSP offers free screening to women aged 50 to 74 with no signs of breast cancer. It’s recommended that these women get a mammogram every two years since early detection through mammography can result in significant health benefits including increased treatment options and better survival rates.
It was family friend Bonnie Donaghey who convinced Mimma to see her family doctor. Bonnie didn’t suspect cancer, but instead was concerned that Mimma may have lymphedema after noticing her left arm and hand were swollen. Lymphedema results from a blockage in the lymphatic system, and is not typically a symptom of breast cancer. In fact, it’s most commonly caused by the removal of, or damage to, lymph nodes as part of cancer treatment. Mimma’s cancer was discovered as a result of visiting her doctor for the swelling.
Bonnie, age 64, is a firm believer in breast screening as part of her routine medical care. She started screening at age 50, and returns every two years for her mammogram.
“I know that I have certain risk factors that could increase my chances of developing breast cancer,” said Bonnie, who cited having dense breasts as among them. “I do self-breast exams but I’m often uncertain about what I’m feeling. Mammograms are so important because they see what you can’t.”
Mimma’s oncologist at the Juravinski Cancer Centre, Dr. Mark Levine, encouraged her to take part in the 2016 Bright Run, an annual fundraiser that supports breast cancer research at the Juravinski Cancer Centre and the Escarpment Cancer Research Institute, which is a joint research institute of Hamilton Health Sciences and McMaster University.
“Dr. Levine was very inspiring,” said Mimma, whose team of 50 family and friends including Bonnie raised a whopping $11,656 for the cause. “Participating in the Bright Run was empowering. It made me feel like I was fighting back against this disease, with support from my team and all the other participants.”
If you’re overdue for your mammogram or have never been screened, Just Book It by visiting hnhbscreenforlife.ca or calling 1-800-668-9304. Anyone wanting to know more about risk factors associated with cancers including breast cancer can visit mycancerIQ.ca