Mammograms Save Lives

One in eight American women will develop breast cancer at some point in her life. But it’s not always easy to predict who will get the disease. Just ask Shawndel Laughner, who had nine normal mammograms before receiving her breast cancer diagnosis.

A Survivor’s Story
“My diagnosis was jarring because it was a routine mammogram, and I showed no symptoms,” says Shawndel. “I never would have expected to get a phone call from my obstetrician telling me that I have cancer in my right breast as I was on my way to meet colleagues for dinner after our workday.”

She called the St. Clair Hospital Breast Care Center the very next day and had her first appointment within a week with Sarwat B. Ahmad, MD, of St. Clair Medical Group Breast & General Surgery, who told Shawndel to put her pen and paper away as she would write everything down.

Shawndel stresses, “Dr. Ahmad made something that was terrifying seem manageable. She gave me hope and assurance that she was going to be there, taking care of me, throughout my journey.”

“I felt the whole time that I had every bit of knowledge that I needed to have regarding what was happening with my body, in a very open setting where I could talk and ask questions,” continues Shawndel. Plus, she appreciated that the St. Clair Health team worked around her schedule to enable her to continue working and attending school functions during her daughter’s senior year.

“Having a medical team mapping out a plan of care with transparency and honesty ensured that I knew so much about where I was going,” explains Shawndel. “I was in such great hands that I knew this caring group of physicians and healthcare professionals were going to take care of me. They are the best of the best.”

Shawndel’s breast cancer is now in remission after undergoing surgery and completing radiation therapy. Her successful outcome is why Shawndel emphasizes, “Please don’t miss your screening appointments. They’re so very important. These things really can come out of nowhere.”

Regular Screening Mammograms Are Critical
With screenings and early detection, fortunately, many of the estimated 13,000 women in Pennsylvania who will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year alone can be successfully treated like Shawndel.

“Time and time again, research studies have shown that early detection of breast cancer is key to saving lives, and mammography is the best tool we have,” says Zidnia Conde-Colon, MD, of the St. Clair Hospital Breast Care Center. Screening mammography can often detect breast cancer before any symptoms appear, as this screening technology did for Shawndel.

Dr. Conde-Colon explains, “It is important for patients to come every year to get their mammogram starting at age 40 because having multiple mammograms for comparison aids in the early identification of small breast changes that may otherwise be detected as a larger abnormality causing more harm.”

What To Expect During A Screening Mammogram
A screening mammogram will begin with a brief review of your medical history, before an imaging technologist examines your breasts and then positions your body in the mammography machine to capture images. You should try to remain still and hold your breath while one breast at a time is gently compressed for no more than 30 seconds for each image—with two images taken of each breast.

Normal screening results will be mailed, though some patients may receive a call back for additional imaging. This is common after your first mammogram, as there’s no previous comparison to establish a normal finding. But you shouldn’t let fear of the results or examination keep you from getting an annual mammogram.

“No preparation is needed when getting a mammogram. We just need you to schedule an appointment and show up,” emphasizes Dr. Conde-Colon. “I would urge every women to show up and take that first step to help us save their life.”

Have you scheduled your annual mammogram yet? Visit to schedule this important yearly screening at the St. Clair Health Breast Care Center. As a leader in high value health care, St. Clair Health participates with all major insurers.