PADUCAH — There's no cure for cancer yet, but detecting and treating the disease at an early stage can and does save lives. Breast cancer has the highest survival rate of any cancer when found early.
A relatively new form of mammogram screening is making its way to hospitals and imaging centers around the United States. It's called a 3D mammogram.
A 3D mammogram is used to look for breast cancer in people who have no signs or symptoms.
Cindy Hagan is the Women's Imaging Manager at Mercy Health Lourdes Hospital in Paducah. Her department uses the new technology. She's worked in medical imaging for 27 years.
In 2016, a year after she started working at Mercy Health Lourdes Hospital, she viewed a routine mammogram she'll never forget.
"Being in this business for a while, I kind of, when I saw the images, I kind of knew what was coming up," Hagan said.
She was staring at her own scans, looking at the beginning stages of breast cancer. The lump was too small for Hagan to feel on her own.
The 3D imaging mammogram she received gave her and doctors a 40% greater chance of detecting the abnormality versus a traditional 2D mammogram.
General Surgeon Alice Higdon said it's become a game changer.
"We do breast cancer screenings so we can find things early," said Higdon, who performs surgeries on breast cancer patients. "When you put it off and don't do it, that's when you get the later stage breast cancer."
The American Cancer Society says you have a 99% chance of surviving breast cancer if it's only in your breast. Those numbers drop as low as 27% when it spreads further from the original source.
Higdon said getting diagnosed with breast cancer is not a death sentence.
"The medications and treatments have come so far for masticate breast cancer. That's stage 4. That's the worst you can get. People live with this for years and years," Higdon said.
Hagan missed just 16 days of work through her journey with breast cancer.
"I tell my mother, I tell my sister: go somewhere that does 3D mammography," Hagan said.
Now she's telling you.
3D mammograms are not considered the standard of care for breast cancer screening, because it's newer technology. It may not be available at all hospitals and mammogram facilities. For more information on 3D mammograms, click here.