July 16, 2021
Daughter’s persistence shows importance of not delaying cancer screenings
BY Cynthia DeMarco
Judy Garcia is still too young to need a regular mammogram herself. But as a breast ultrasound technologist, the 30-year-old knows how important it is not to delay this annual screening exam.
“I see it every day at my job,” she says. “Women come in with more advanced cases of disease because the cancer has had time to grow between their breast cancer screenings.”
Judy was determined to spare her mother, Maria Garcia, from a similar fate. MD Anderson’s new Saturday screening mammogram option is what finally helped her do it.
Saturday mammogram scheduling option makes the difference
By the fall of 2020, 66-year-old Maria Garcia had been putting off her regularly scheduled mammogram for more than six months.
“She was scared of getting COVID-19,” Judy explains. “The pandemic was everywhere at that point, so I understood. She didn’t want to risk getting sick.”
Still, Judy persisted, reminding her mother repeatedly that getting a mammogram was safe, and she shouldn’t wait any longer. Then, in November 2020, MD Anderson began offering Saturday screening mammogram appointments at most Houston locations, including The Woodlands. And Judy realized it was time to press her advantage.
“I’d already told my mom about all the COVID-19 precautions we were taking to protect ourselves and our patients,” Judy says. “But when I told her there was hardly anyone even in the building on Saturdays, she finally gave in and let me make her an appointment.”
Surprising mammogram results
It’s fortunate that Judy kept pushing. Because the technologist who performed her mother’s screening mammogram that day found a small area of concern in Maria’s left breast. Additional testing showed it was ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) — or stage 0 breast cancer.
“That’s the earliest stage you can possibly detect it,” Judy says. “So, I’m glad Mom didn’t wait any longer. Just one mammogram can make a difference.”
Two generations grateful for weekend screening option
To remove the cancerous cells from Maria’s breast, Elizabeth Fitzsullivan, M.D., performed a lumpectomy on Jan. 14, 2021. Maria also completed five days of radiation therapy under the care of Valerie Reed, M.D. And to reduce the chance of recurrence, she’ll continue taking a hormone-suppressing drug called anastrazole until 2026.
“Breast cancer treatment at MD Anderson has worked out really great for my mom,” Judy says. “She’s cancer-free now, doing well and has had only minimal side effects.”
In light of what the mammogram uncovered, Judy is especially relieved that her mother finally agreed to get one — and that MD Anderson’s Saturday option made the appointment easy for both of them.
“I was off that day, so I was able to take her in myself. And that was good, because she doesn’t really drive,” Judy says. “That location is also convenient for both of us. She’s so grateful now that I made her come in. I can’t imagine she’ll ever put off another one.”
Request an appointment at MD Anderson online or by calling 1-877-632-6789.
Just one mammogram can make a difference.
Breast Ultrasound Technologist & Caregiver