HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - October, as we've come to know, is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The American Cancer Society estimates 1,120 new cases of female breast cancer will be diagnosed in Hawaii in 2012. But with advances in medicine, patients have greater options than just radiation, chemotherapy, and a single mastectomy.
67 year old breast cancer survivor, Monette Gilding, hasn't lost her sense of humor. "One stop shop. One cuts, the other one pops!" she laughs. She's joking about surgeons who performed both her double mastectomy and the reconstructive surgery that immediately followed. She even calls her new breasts 'an upgrade'. "It was okay with me. I mean, I have big boobs!" Gilding chuckles.
Surgeon Laura Peterson, from Kapiolani Women's Center, says breast cancer patients have far more options than they used to. For instance, new 3-D technology, called breast tomo-synthesis, is helping to vastly improve mammograms.
"It helps, especially women with dense breasts or very nodular breasts," explains Dr. Peterson. "It helps keep them from getting called back for more (mammogram) pictures."
Peterson says extra images produced in the breast tomo-synthesis may have already helped save lives at Kapiolani. "We have found a couple of cancers that we think probably would not have been found on routine mammograms, but with the 3-D processing, we can scroll through and pinpoint a spot very much more clearly."
Advances in lumpectomies have also helped prevent whole breast removal. Nipple-sparing mastectomies have improved, as has breast reconstruction - which now causes less scarring and is more natural.
Monette Gilding has advice for fellow survivors and patients. "Hang in there. And just do whatever needs to be done, and just go forward. Don't reverse. Life, don't reverse. Go forward!"
Now cancer-free, she's proof you can - not only survive - but thrive.
Kapiolani Women's Center offers free mammograms and pap smears for women who qualify. You must be:
* Female, 50 to 64 years old OR female, 40 to 49 years old and at-risk (have a breast lump or family history of breast/cervical cancer)
* Little or no medical insurance or cannot afford co-payment
* Meet generous income guidelines
* American citizen or permanent resident (have to have a social security number)
For more information about the program, call Kapiolani Women's Center at (808) 973-3015.