Patient StoriesBreast Cancer

My First Mammogram and a Surprising Diagnosis

Nicole Davis went for her first mammogram a few weeks after turning 40 and suddenly her worst nightmare was a reality.
October 2021 Vol 7 No 5
Nicole Davis
Wilmington, Delaware

When I went for my first mammogram a few weeks after turning 40, I never thought that I would hear the word “cancer.” But soon after my biopsy, my nightmare became a reality. I was diagnosed with stage II triple-negative breast cancer on January 21, 2019.

Shock into Anger

My denial and shock soon turned into frustration and anger. Why me? What have I done to cause this? I have no breast cancer in my family, so this can’t be happening, I thought, but it did happen!

At first I had no time to breathe: diagnosis, MRI, CT scan, and several different doctor appointments—all within the first few days. Then, port surgery on January 30, 2019, to prepare for chemotherapy. And on February 1, 2019, I had my first chemotherapy.

Hiding Behind My Hair

Losing my hair was the hardest part for me. As women, we can hide behind our hair. It is a part of us, and for some of us, it defines us.

I cut my hair into a pixie, which I always wanted to try, and then it started to fall out within a week. My husband shaved it for me, and I cried for 2 full hours.

There was nothing anyone could do or say to make me feel better about losing my hair. I was bald, and I now looked like a patient with cancer.

The Metallic Taste of Chemo

I had 16 rounds of chemotherapy, which made me sick to my stomach, gave me a metal taste in my mouth, and left me exhausted. Every week before chemo, blood work was done to make sure my blood cell count was okay.

I have been stuck with needles so many times during treatments, probably more needles than I have had in my entire life. But as they say—what doesn’t kill you, only makes you stronger.

I had a lumpectomy surgery and removal of lymph nodes on July 19, 2019. I also had 30 radiation treatments, which was done 5 days a week, Monday through Friday, for 6 weeks.

Surprising Strength

People frequently tell me how strong I have been. My reply is, that you do what you have to do to live. I never knew what strength was until I faced breast cancer.

I’m so thankful for my family, friends, and co-workers—for all they do for me every day. They encourage and support me and I am blessed.

Fighting breast cancer has been a battle, but I am proud to say that I won, and I am still standing here today, because the cancer was caught early, through the use of a mammogram.

Get Your Mammogram

If I would have waited to get my mammogram, I could have had advanced breast cancer, stage III or even stage IV cancer by now. This would have made things so much worse.

If it’s time for you to have your first or annual mammogram, don’t postpone it. You never know when it could save your life.

Breast Cancer & Mammograms

Breast cancer does not discriminate. No one expects to be diagnosed with this disease, particularly women under age 40.

Nevertheless, according to the American Cancer Society, breast cancer remains the most common cancer diagnosed in women in their 20s and 30s. And according to the National Cancer Institute, the average age for the diagnosis of breast cancer in women is 62, meaning that about half of the women with breast cancer are diagnosed before age 62. This suggests that breast cancer is ageless.

Solis Mammography, a large independent provider of mammography and breast health services in Dallas, Texas, offers these practical tips related to mammograms and breast health, by the age of the woman:

  • Age 20: Learn how to perform a breast self-exam and get to know your normal breasts
  • Age 30: Discuss your potential risk factors with your doctor
  • Age 40: Get your baseline screening mammogram and continue annually
  • Age 50: Find out what no one tells you about mammograms and menopause
  • Age 60: Continue the habit of getting an annual mammogram
  • Age 70+: Despite different advice from some national guidelines, when to stop getting an annual mammogram is not related to age. Women are advised to continue doing what they believe keeps them healthy.

Importance of Mammograms During Menopause

Chirag R. Parghi, MD, Chief Medical Officer, and Andrea Parada, MD, Medical Director, both of Solis Mammography, explained to CONQUER magazine the importance of annual mammography during menopause and beyond.

“Women should be very consistent with their mammograms when they are going through menopause—this is not a time to skip. The late 40s and 50s are an important age for breast health. Breast tissue and breast cancers are very sensitive to changes in hormones, and this is a decade that menopause is most common. Because of that, breast cancer can happen. A yearly mammogram can save your life,” Dr. Parghi said.

“We know that our fat cells do produce estrogen. So for every 11 pounds that we gain, we actually increase the likelihood of developing a breast cancer after menopause by 3%,” Dr. Parada added.

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Last modified: November 1, 2021

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