Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October is one of the mostly recognized health observance months.  We’ve all seen it on social media, television news stations, and more: “Save the Tatas,” “Save Second Base” and more.  Initiatives like these during the month of October not only help raise funds to fight breast cancer, but they save lives.

Carol Bailey knows that more than just about anyone else.

As a support tech with the University of Maryland Medical System’s Information Services and Technology Help Desk, Carol gets hundreds of emails a day. But it only took one a few Octobers ago to change her life.  The Breast Center sent out an email to all UMMS employees reminding them of their extended hours for breast imaging and mammography services. 

“Right when that email came into my inbox, I was immediately reminded I was overdue for my mammogram,” Carol said. “All my experiences with friends and family at the University of Maryland had been positive, so knew that was the best place to go.” 

Within a few days, she went to the Breast Center for her mammogram.  Carol thought it would be uneventful, just like all the other times she’s gotten a mammogram. However, to her surprise,  Carol’s mammogram showed abnormal spots on one of her breasts.  After an ultrasound, a biopsy revealed the small tumor was cancerous. 

Carol had no family history of breast cancer, meaning she had no obvious risk factor for getting this disease. The diagnosis came as a complete shock. 

“You don’t know what’s going happen and you’re scared, but the breast team makes it easy for you.” Carol said. “Their attitudes helped me feel relaxed and at ease.  To have somebody there to guide you, it makes all the difference in the world.”

The multidisciplinary team at the University of Maryland Greenebaum Comprehensive Cancer Center helped Carol through her diagnosis.  Carol’s team consisted of Medical Oncologist Dr. Katherine Tkaczuk and several others.

They worked together to come up with a plan for Carol’s treatment: a lumpectomy and radiation therapy. 

“Knowing that there’s a game plan, that helps you comprehend your diagnosis,” Carol said.  “With the help of everyone there I was able to stay upbeat, and that also helped me with my recovery.”

Carol qualified for a unique clinical trial: instead of performing her lumpectomy before she had radiation therapy, her breast team ordered radiation therapy first in an attempt to shrink the tumor. 

“More than five years later, I have a new lease on life,” Carol said.  “The hospital is the one that helped me through the whole thing.  I don’t think I would’ve gotten the care I got at UMGCCC anywhere else.  They were there for me, and that’s what made the difference.”

Since Carol has successfully beaten breast cancer, she still visits Dr. Tkaczuk every year for a check-up.  She also has become an advocate for regularly scheduled breast screenings.  

Right after her diagnosis and treatment, Carol won two, 3-day passes to the Grand Prix in Baltimore, and even sat in the driver’s seat of a Formula 1 car.

Carol also has been able to see her grandchildren grow up, and she is now a great-grandmother! 

“The family keeps growing and I’m here to watch them grow,” Carol said. 

An important part of treating breast cancer – or any cancer – is to catch it as early as possible, so if you or a loved one is due for a mammogram, schedule one at The Breast Center at University of Maryland at 410-328-3225. 

If you are faced with a breast cancer diagnosis, the Breast Evaluation & Treatment Service can help. Whether you need an initial consultation or a second opinion, call 410-328-7904.

NAPBC: National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers
American College of Radiology: Breast Imaging Center of Excellence