Mt Desert Islander
BAR HARBOR, Maine, 28 October 2010, As a registered nurse at the Breast Center at MDI Hospital, Karol Hagberg knows well the importance of breast exams for early detection of cancer. As a breast cancer survivor, she also knows that a methodical approach she learned on the job might have helped save her life.
The MammaCare method of clinical breast examination is the recognized standard for teaching and performing clinical breast examinations and is offered free of charge at the Breast Center, a hospital spokesman said in a press release.
Following a grid pattern, the method involves a palpation and search procedure designed to ensure contact of the trained fingers with every cubic millimeter of breast tissue.
Ms. Hagberg learned the technique from Breast Center nurse Betty Mitchell, who received her national certification as a MammaCare Clinical Breast Examiner in 2006 and passed her knowledge on to other staff members. “I’ve always been an advocate for breast self-exams,” said Ms. Hagberg. “But when Betty taught us the MammaCare method, I saw it was more thorough than the method we had been using.”
Now, Breast Center staff use it to conduct clinical exams and teach women to use a modified, user-friendly version of the method to conduct their monthly breast self-exams. “I believe this method has allowed us to detect small lumps more accurately in our patients,” said Ms. Hagberg.
One day in 2006, just six months after her annual mammogram, Ms. Hagberg used the MammaCare method during her own monthly self-exam and found a small lump. “It helped me find a lump that wasn’t present when I had my mammogram.”
After tests confirmed that the lump was malignant, Ms. Hagberg underwent a lumpectomy and then began chemotherapy followed by radiation, the former being done at MDI Hospital’s oncology/hematology department. “I saw things from the patients’ perspective and I felt like I was in very good hands,” said Ms. Hagberg.
She credits the MammaCare method with giving her a greater familiarity with her own breasts, thus making her self-exam more effective. “If I hadn’t found that lump, I would have had a more advanced cancer the next time I went in for a mammogram,” said Ms. Hagberg.
She said that self-exams along with regular mammograms and clinical breast exams are key to early detection and that early detection is critical to survival. “Breast cancer is much more easily treatable and often curable if it is found early,” she said.
Four years after feeling that tiny lump in her breast, Ms. Hagberg is an even stronger advocate for breast self-exams. “I tell women that the more familiar you are with the texture of your breasts, the more likely you are to know when something is wrong,” said Ms. Hagberg. “Today, I’m well, and I’m looking forward to a long life, breast cancer free.”
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