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Painting it Pink

Melissa Norris, Andee Pitcock and Lori Pitcock (left to right) in the UAMS Breast Center.

Felicia May, Senior Interventional Radiology Technologist at UAMS, explains the testing process to Melissa Norris, a Breast Center patient.

UAMS patient Melissa Norris receives her mammogram results from Dr. Robert Fincher, medical director of the UAMS Breast Center, and Sarah Lane, manager of the Breast Center.

Girls of all ages love spending time with their girlfriends -- talking, shopping, eating and solving the problems of the world. Some girlfriends have also taken action to improve their health by exercising together or exchanging healthy recipes.

While you are busy taking care of your family, it can be easy to postpone or neglect your own preventive care. And your girlfriends are probably in a similar situation.

The statistics are scary: One in eight women will develop breast cancer in her lifetime. Considering the importance of early detection, have you considered joining forces to make a mammogram appointment with your female support system? Teaming up with your friends will hold each of you accountable to schedule this important date on your calendar and might also ease any tension that you feel.

Lori Pitcock, Melissa Norris and Andee Pitcock are one group of best friends forever who want to help each other make that important date every year. While Melissa takes a lot of steps to take care of her health, including regular exercise as a runner, she was surprised to realize that while time was passing quickly, years had passed since her last mammogram.

After providing support for several friends who were diagnosed with breast cancer, Norris realized she needed to have her screening mammogram. “I feel like I need to there for my kids and my elderly parents. I have a lot of responsibilities, so if something were to happen to me, it would not be good for them. I’m doing this for them too,” she said.

At the UAMS Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute Breast Center, all three women were asked to provide their family history. While Norris does not have a history of breast cancer in her family, Andee’s beloved aunt is a breast cancer survivor who encourages Andee to be screened regularly.

Since Andee and Lori are married to brothers, they do not share the same family history. Lori’s motivation to stay current on her breast cancer testing is fueled by the fact that her late grandmother had breast cancer. And since Lori’s great-aunt is the one of the oldest known breast cancer survivors in Arkansas at the age of 89, she knows that long-term breast cancer survivors can thrive and live a full life.

“At this time, breast cancer is not preventable, but with early detection of small cancers, it is highly curable. To enhance early detection and cure, women should have a baseline mammogram at the age of 35 and annual mammograms beginning at age 40,” said Robert Fincher, M.D., medical director of the UAMS Breast Center. “For those who have breast cancers that are diagnosed early, the cure rate is as high as 96 to 98%.”

Having read over 200,000 mammograms and diagnosing over 10,000 breast cancers, Dr. Fincher also wants to emphasize the importance of digital mammograms, noting that digital mammograms have been proven superior over film screening mammograms by several studies around the country. In addition to being all digital, UAMS has the only dedicated breast MRI unit in central Arkansas.

For anyone who fears the mammogram process, Dr. Fincher provides reassurance through highly trained staff members who will make adjustments if a patient experiences discomfort. And a few moments of discomfort may save your life.

All three women believe that having mammograms together guaranteed laughter and companionship instead of anxious moments during the process. Now they want to encourage other women to schedule mammogram testing with their friends.

Andee plans to have an annual date with Lori and Melissa. “I care enough about them to make sure we all use this important tool to ensure early detection of any breast cancers that may arise in the future. They mean the world to me, so it’s important that we are around for each other in the future.”

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