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Recognizing Your Risk Being proactive about your personal breast cancer risk could save your life.

One of the most important pieces of advice women can follow about their health is getting screening mammograms on schedule, and not putting them off. “Anybody can get breast cancer — one in eight women develops it over her lifetime,” says Neelima Chintapalli, M.D., hematologist and oncologist at CHRISTUS Cancer Treatment Center.

“We also have young women who develop the disease. The important thing to know is that it’s very treatable, particularly when it hasn’t spread beyond the breast.” There have been many developments in breast cancer treatment in recent years, most of which involve tailoring care to individual patients. Common examples include determining what drug combinations work best for a woman’s individual breast cancer, and whether her best course of action is immediate surgery or a tumor-shrinking treatment. CHRISTUS Health Shreveport-Bossier also participates in clinical trials,
offering patients alternative treatments and access to the latest medicine and treatment across the nation.

Take Charge of Your Health

“The earlier we detect cancer, the better chance we have to fight it, particularly if we can catch it at a stage before cancer cells have left a specific area,” Dr. Chintapalli says. “You can almost always cure that with surgery, radiation or even something as small as a hormone blocker. Patients may not need chemotherapy.” Dr. Chintapalli stresses that women need to take responsibility for their own health. This could include anything from getting screening mammograms regularly to eating a healthy diet to incorporating regular exercise and limiting alcohol intake to lower cancer risk.

“Know your body — be aware if there are any changes or anything out of the ordinary regarding your breasts,” Dr. Chintapalli says. “Taking preventive measures, especially when there’s a family history, allows us to catch cancers earlier and at a more curable stage.”

Getting the Jump on Breast Cancer

When she received her diagnosis 11 years ago, longtime breast cancer survivor Denise Tindall, 54, was crushed. Her mother is a breast cancer survivor, and she’d been careful about her risk ever since her mother’s diagnosis. “My diagnosis was devastating at first, but then I took the bull by the horns and had surgery, chemo and radiation,” Denise says. “I got in the fight quickly, and I was blessed throughout the process to be surrounded by family, friends and my church family and to be receiving excellent medical care.” Today, Denise is doing great and using her second chance to help other women dealing with the same thing she went through. Along with two other people, Denise facilitates a breast cancer support group at the CHRISTUS Health Breast Center once a month to provide community and connection to women who currently have or have had breast cancer.

“Women need to know that we are important and that we need to take care of ourselves,” Denise says. “There’s always hope. Every day we wake up and have a whole new hope.”

Finding Your Peace

Although Rachel Procell’s mother, Sherry Collins, passed away from breast cancer earlier this year, Rachel’s focus is on life. “Even when my mom was going through treatment, her quality of life was still so good,” Rachel says. “Even though life doesn’t always turn out how we want it to, it’s all about perspective.” A big factor in her mother’s happiness, Rachel notes, was the care she received at the CHRISTUS Cancer Treatment Center. Sherry and her family had a great relationship with the staff, and Rachel says she’d recommend the CHRISTUS Cancer Treatment Center to anyone.

“Fortunately my mom’s breast cancer was not hereditary — we did the genetic testing and it came back negative — but it absolutely made me more conscious of my own health, and I would encourage others to do the same,” Rachel says. “More than anything, though, I would encourage everyone to know there is life after a breast cancer diagnosis. Our faith made the journey bearable, and I want people to know there is hope for them to find that same peace and live a great life.”

On the Journey

When Rita Harris, 65, was diagnosed with breast cancer, she spent a week and half considering what she should do. Finally, she told her husband that she was resolved to be a cancer survivor, and it was time to start the fight.

“When I spoke to my doctors at the CHRISTUS Cancer Treatment Center, I told them I wanted to have my surgery in Thibodaux in order to be close to my mom,” Rita says. “Everyone was wonderful, and they all worked with me to get me ready for surgery and then set up treatments here after it was over.”

Rita, who recently finished her cancer treatment, credits her good attitude to lots of prayer, the wonderful team at CHRISTUS, her husband, Charlie, and her daughters Trina, Stacey, Elaine and Cherie.

“Life is a journey, and cancer is just a piece of that journey,” Rita says. “An important part of the journey of being a woman is being proactive about our health and taking care of ourselves.”