Story of Hope: A mammogram saved my life


COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Ohio Health Breast Surgeon Dr. Deepa Halaharvi is usually the one delivering the news to patients.

But, just one week after celebrating her 42nd birthday — the tables turned.

“I went for a routine screening mammogram, where they saw a mass. They called me back for diagnostic mammography — A biopsy — And I was fortunate enough to find out within 24-hours that I had cancer,” said Dr. Halaharvi.

Anyone would be devastated by that diagnosis, but Dr. Halaharvi said that routine screening appointment gave her a second chance. Instead of becoming a victim, she is now a survivor.

“Mammogram also catches cancer at a very early stage, before a woman can feel it,” said Dr. Halaharvi. “So the surgeries are less invasive, and the prognosis is much better.”

In fact, research shows a mammogram can the reduce the death rate of those diagnosed with breast cancer by up to 30 percent, saving the lives of women like Dr. Halaharvi.

She said the screening should be done each year once women turn 40 years old, but adds that cancer does not discriminate, and can affect anyone at any age.

For women 39-years-old or younger, the American Cancer Society does not have any recommended annual screenings, so Dr. Halaharvi said those women need to have self-awareness.

“What that means is women need to know what’s normal for them. So younger women come to me and say they have lumpy, bumpy breasts, ‘What do I do with it?’ I say, ‘You need to know what that lumpy, bumpiness for you is, so if anything changes, you need to bring your attention to your doctor,” said Dr. Halaharvi.

The American Cancer Society and other organizations have different recommendations when it comes to screenings for women under age 40, that continually change.

They are encouraged to perform self-breast exams each week, starting at age 19.

“You want to be your own advocate. Bottom line, women, we need to be our own advocate. We need to talk to our physicians. If the physicians don’t listen to you, get a different physician.”

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