October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

ThedaCare Patient Encourages Following Screening Recommendations

October 8, 2020

DARBOY, Wis. – In July 2020, Jeanine Blank was living her life as normal as possible during the COVID-19 pandemic. She biked multiple miles a day and was looking forward to the time when it would be safe to travel again.

Then after a regularly scheduled mammogram, her world changed completely. She was diagnosed with breast cancer.

“I had absolutely no idea,” said Blank. “If it was not for the mammogram I would never have known, maybe until it was too late.”

The 70-year-old Darboy resident began treatment immediately with Dr. Nathan Munson, a Radiation Oncologist at the Regional Cancer Center. It was a significant moment that brought her back to a familiar place. Dr. Munson treated her mother for cancer as well. Her mother passed away last year.

“I loved all the team members when they cared for my mother,” she said. “I just never would have thought I would need them one day.”  

Many of the team members remembered Blank.

“Every person welcomes you,” she said. “They make you feel like you belong. We are so lucky to live in the Fox Valley. I believe we have the best health care – it’s something about the doctors and nurses, everyone, they make treatment easier, if that is possible.”

Blank went through surgery and an intense round of radiation, finishing treatment on August 28th. She had the opportunity to ring the survivor bell which is located outside of the Regional Cancer Center.

“It was so special,” she said. “Dr. Munson told me to ring the bell twice – once for me, and once for my mother.”

Blank has advice for those who need a mammogram, and might be concerned about scheduling one during a pandemic.

“The risk of missing breast cancer, or any cancer, is more significant than the risk of COVID,” she said. “You cannot delay screenings because of the virus.”

Dr. Munson agrees.

“It is vitally important that people follow through with regular cancer screenings,” he said. “Those who are not having regular checkups or cancer screenings run the risk of missing the development of a new cancer at early stages, which may impact their health for years to come.”

Experts recommend speaking with your provider about your risk for cancer and developing the best screening plan for you. The American Cancer Society offers these breast cancer screening recommendations:

  • Women ages 40 to 44 should have the choice to start annual breast cancer screening with mammograms (x-rays of the breast) if they wish to do so.
  • Women age 45 to 54 should get mammograms every year.
  • Women 55 and older should switch to mammograms every 2 years, or can continue yearly screening.
  • Some women – because of their family history, a genetic tendency, or certain other factors – should be screened with MRIs along with mammograms. (The number of women who fall into this category is very small.)
  • Talk with a health care provider about your risk for breast cancer and the best screening plan for you.

“I had always gotten mammograms, and it was important for me to stay on top of any screenings I needed,” Blank said. “I wouldn’t let COVID stop me from doing that.”

Dr. Munson noted that people should feel confident coming to ThedaCare clinics and hospitals. ThedaCare has gone to great lengths to make facilities safe so we can provide care for patients and families, including:

  • Requiring anyone who enters a ThedaCare facility to wear a mask
  • Asking patients to maintain six feet of distance from all other patients
  • Making sure our physicians, nurses, caregivers, support staff and infectious disease experts continue to stay informed with the latest information and treatment protocols
  • Continuing to care for COVID-19 patients at our respiratory care clinics
  • Asking patients a series of screening questions about any possible exposure to COVID-19 and if they have any symptoms – cough, fever, shortness of breath, loss of taste or smell or problems with vomiting or diarrhea. If those symptoms are present, the appointment should be rescheduled.
  • Limiting visitors to minimize the risk of exposure
“They are taking so many precautions when you are in the facilities,” Blank said. “They made me feel comfortable in my choices, and I knew I was going to be okay. I’m grateful to be back to doing the things I love.”