Mount Pleasant Magazine Sept-Oct 2023

46 | | detected early. Dr. Rebecca Leddy, professor of radiology and director of Breast Imaging at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC), is passionate about screening early and often for breast cancer. “It’s important to take care of yourself, take ownership of yourself, and that includes screening for breast cancer starting at age 40 and every year after,” Leddy advised. “We often put off caring for ourselves because we’re busy taking care of everybody else. Listen to your body, notice changes and don’t delay.” For Taylor, treatment included surgery to remove the tumor followed by 16 rounds of radiation. “The receptors on my cancer were positive for estrogen,” Taylor related, “which means that I have to take Tamoxifen for the next five years to lessen my chances of the cancer returning. The Tamoxifen blocks the hormones in my body, which means that I’ve been thrown into full-blown menopause.” While the ongoing side effects of this medication have been brutal, Taylor is grateful to be cancer-free. Although Taylor had no family history of breast cancer, Leddy confirmed that most women who are diagnosed with breast cancer don’t. “Just because something doesn’t run in your family, more often than not with breast cancer most women who are diagnosed have average risk,” Leddy explained. For women who do have family members who have been diagnosed with breast cancer, Leddy encouraged a conversation with a physician. “If they have a higher risk, a first-degree relative like a mother or sister who had breast cancer, we start screening earlier than the age of 40 and can also add in supplemental screening, like MRI,” Leddy said. Leddy emphasized that 3D Mammography, offering digital breast tomosynthesis, has been proven to be the most effective tool for detecting breast cancer with 30-40 percent more accuracy than older machines. Regardless of how you arrive at a breast cancer diagnosis, the journey can be an emotional rollercoaster. “I think it’s important to allow yourself to feel the feelings associated with the diagnosis,” shared Taylor, reflecting upon her experience. “Trying to pretend like you’re not scared or sad is not good for your mental health and I really allowed myself to lean into those feelings. When you do that, you create a pathway to pull yourself back out of it.” Taylor also emphasized the important role that rest played during her battle with breast cancer. She encourages others to tune in to their bodies and rest when needed in order to heal and find the strength to keep fighting. While it was Taylor’s intuition that prompted a trip to the doctor, there are a few key indicators of breast cancer that are important to look out for — and take seriously. According to Leddy, common symptoms of breast cancer include: • Feeling a lump in the breast • Nipple changes • Nipple discharge • Change in breast size on one side • Focal pain in the breast • Skin thickening Although there is no known cause of breast cancer, there are several risk factors that are important to note. Having early periods or late menopause, a family history of breast cancer or never having children are factors beyond our control that can increase breast cancer risk. Research shows that one in eight women will battle breast cancer in their lives and though family history and genetics play a role in this disease, there are proactive steps people can take to reduce their risk. our town Mount Pleasant influencer Julianne Taylor offers her wisdom on beating breast cancer in style. Dr. Rebecca Leddy, professor of radiology and director of Breast Imaging at the Medical University of South Carolina is passionate about screening early and often for breast cancer.