As college football fans, Denise Dowell and her family have always looked forward to the fall. And, as is the case for any Arkansas Razorbacks fan, the uncertainty of how the season will go has caused much anxiety. Although Denise may not be able to influence how the Hogs will finish the season, she now has control of something far more crucial. Denise had seen her fair share of cancer. Both of her grandmothers, her aunt, her uncle and her mother have all fought the disease. As a mother and wife, Denise did not want to take any chances with her own health.
“My mother was diagnosed with breast cancer when she was 51,” Denise says. “Because her cancer was detected early, she is still going strong today at 74 years old. I learned a lot from my mom’s experience. As a daughter, I wanted my mom to be here as long as possible. I’ve since become a wife and a mother myself. My daughter is 14 and still has a lot of monumental moments ahead of her. I know I need to be there for my daughter and my husband just like my mom has been there for me.”
The Home Team
Denise and her mother made an appointment with Tammy McKamie, RN, MSN, OCN, GCN, clinical oncology patient navigator and cancer genetic educator with the W. Temple Webber Cancer Center at CHRISTUS St. Michael. It was evident from her family history she qualified as a good candidate for testing. The testing screened 25 different genes for mutations, but fortunately, not one showed
a mutation or a variant. Her test results, along with family history, were submitted into a database, which then provided recommendations. The results indicated Denise should receive an annual breast magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
Tammy explained to Denise that an annual breast MRI can offer valuable information about many breast conditions that may otherwise go undetected. For example, there could be a cancer gene the genetic testing doesn’t currently cover, or a cancer syndrome in the family that may be unknown. Breast MRI offers an even greater opportunity to detect abnormalities than mammography or ultrasound. Denise’s results were sent to her primary care physician, who ordered a breast MRI at the CHRISTUS St. Michael Breast Imaging Center of Excellence.
“Any type of screening or test you do can cause fear, anxiety or awkwardness,” Denise shares. “But the staff at the Imaging Center helped me feel very comfortable.” Fortunately, Denise’s results showed no sign of cancer. “My family history raised the red flags for genetic testing, and now the MRI has given me the assurance that even if I am to develop breast cancer, it will be detected early,”
Denise says. “Had we not had genetic testing or breast MRI here locally, I would not have been as proactive. I recommend everyone take advantage of the advanced technology and care we have here in town. It was more than worth it to me to go through any steps necessary to potentially prolong my time spent here on earth with my family.” Whether they win or lose, Denise will call the Hogs this season and many seasons going forward thanks to the reassurance genetic testing and breast MRI have provided.