When Terri Teasley had a mammogram this spring, she wasn't particularly worried. She didn't feel sick, but her doctor urged her to get checked and referred her to the Iredell Health System Women's Health Center. It was her first mammogram in four years.
"After the mammogram, I got a phone call and a letter telling me they needed more pictures," said Teasley, who lives in Statesville.
A radiologist had discovered an area of concern, prompting the need for the additional follow up testing. After a diagnostic mammogram, an ultrasound, and a biopsy, she received the surprising diagnosis.
"June 9th is when they told me I had breast cancer," Teasley said. "I didn't have any suspicions, it just came out of the blue. I wasn't expecting anything."
With that news, Teasley's life changed forever and doctors started working to save it with surgery and chemotherapy. The treatments forced her to leave her job at a local cleaning company, but she says she's glad that doctors found her cancer, giving her a chance to fight it. She got that chance thanks to the appropriate testing, paid for in part by a grant from the Susan G. Komen Foundation, which recently awarded $11,568 to Iredell Health System to help cover the costs of diagnostic mammograms and ultrasounds for more than 60 local women. If a possible tumor shows up on a regular screening mammogram or someone finds a lump during a self-exam or doctor's visit, usually a diagnostic mammogram and ultrasound are the next steps.
"Diagnostic mammograms and ultrasounds provide more detailed information about a suspicious area in the breast than a routine screening mammogram," said Lois Beckett, mammography supervisor for Iredell Health System. "We never want a patient to ignore a breast concern or to put off diagnostic testing after a routine mammogram because they are concerned about how they will pay for it."
Komen Charlotte conducted a needs assessment of its service area and found that Iredell County had a higher rate of breast cancer discovered at later stages than the 13-county region as a whole. By awarding the grant to Iredell Health System, Komen Charlotte hopes to help more women find breast cancer in earlier stages, increasing their chances at survival.
Teasley is now spreading the word, encouraging other women in her life to take breast cancer seriously.
"I'm telling my sisters and my friends to get their mammograms. I had a friend post online about a lump she found and she was wondering if she should get it checked. I told her yes, not to wait."
Along with the funding from Susan G. Komen, Iredell Health System maintains a mammogram fund to help uninsured and underinsured women with their regular screening mammograms. When it comes to finding breast cancer, Beckett says finances should never stop someone from getting the testing they need.
"Don't wait," said Beckett. "We have the funds available for you. We can find a way to get this taken care of for you."
To contact the Women's Health Center, call 704-878-4551.