CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but as the month comes to an end, it’s important to remember awareness for the disease should not.
“I always tell people, cancer doesn’t discriminate, it doesn’t just diagnose us in October,” said Missie Trejo. “This is an everyday thing, one in eight women get diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime, every three minutes, a woman is getting diagnosed with some sort of stage to their cancer.”
Trejo was diagnosed with stage three breast cancer in 2018. Shortly after he diagnosis, her doctor told her it was stage four metastatic, meaning it had spread to other regions of her body.
“Finding out about cancer at a stage zero, or stage one, stage two, your chances of survival, past five years, is close to 100%,” Trejo said. “Once you start hitting stage three, and in my case, stage four, there’s a 28% survival rate within five years. Immediately, when you hear cancer, especially when you get diagnosed at a stage three, and then to a stage four, you already know you’re fighting a battle you may not win.”
In January, Trejo will be three years cancer-free. Now, she advocates for other women to get checked regularly for breast cancer.
“Had I done my mammograms earlier, had I done what I needed to do, I would’ve probably caught it,” she said. “[My doctor] said it was probably growing five years in me, so I think the frustration was, what did I do to myself, or my family?”
Trejo is self-employed, and for that reason does not have health insurance. She said she put off getting screened for breast cancer for that reason.
What Trejo didn’t know, there is a local organization that offers free breast cancer screenings to women without insurance: First Friday.
“It’s very important, a lot of people don’t know it exists, and we talk to ladies a lot during the year to try to raise awareness on the importance of mammograms, by providing mammogram drives that we do,” said Jeannie Anthony, the marketing director for Radiology Associates. “It’s actually a year-round program, they operate solely on donations from the community. Radiology Associates actually does a fundraiser every year that goes to two non-profits, one of those is First Friday.”
During her time speaking with other women about breast cancer screenings, Trejo has heard from many who were diagnosed with late stage cancer that had not gotten checked for breast cancer. Anthony said many women she meets wish they had gotten checked.
“We hear that a lot, about, ‘if I had only gotten the mammogram,’ ‘I just missed one,’” she said.
The United States Preventative Services Task Force, made up of doctors and disease experts, recommends women 50 to 74 years old get a mammogram every two years, and women 40 to 49 speak with their doctors about whether to get one or not.
Trejo said she’s known women as young as 22 get diagnosed with breast cancer.
“I think women need to be aware, it’s not 40 and over, it starts young, and it’s hitting younger women,” she said. “The sooner you catch it, and the regular mammogram check-ups you have, the more likely you are to get passed it successfully.”
Radiology Associates offers mammograms throughout the year, and has two mammogram drives, one in October for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and one in May around Mother’s Day.
“We really try to help get the word out on the importance of getting these mammograms. Even if you don’t have insurance, even if you think you can’t afford it, there are local ways to get things you need,” Anthony said.