Early breast cancer detection motivates Decorah woman to educate others.

Carolyn Corbin talks with Sarah Wymer, M.D.
Following a breast cancer diagnosis, Carolyn Corbin of Decorah reminds women to get mammograms beginning at age 40. Carolyn (right) is pictured with her Mayo Clinic Health System primary care provider, Sarah Wymer, M.D.

A new lease on life

“I feel like I was stopped for speeding, but just given a warning,” says Carolyn Corbin. This “second-chance” feeling came after her first mammogram screening at age forty revealed invasive ductal carcinoma of the breast.

Carolyn, an active Decorah woman, wife and mother of two young children, only decided to schedule her first mammogram screening after discussing disease prevention guidelines with her primary care provider. Sarah Wymer, M.D., Mayo Clinic Health System family medicine physician at Winneshiek Medical Center suggested Carolyn follow the American Cancer Society guidelines and be screened for breast cancer with a baseline mammogram.

The American Cancer Society recommends women should begin yearly mammogram screenings at the age of forty or earlier if there is a family history of breast cancer, or as recommended by their health care provider. Dr. Wymer says, “Carolyn had no symptoms of breast cancer, but I advise women to receive a baseline mammogram at age forty, regardless. In Carolyn’s case, the spot was so small it could not be felt, and only screening technology could detect it.”

Breast cancer is most treatable when diagnosed in its early stages – many times before a lump can be detected. Finding these microscopic cancer cells and stopping their growth before spreading to other areas of the body is the key to help eliminate this disease. “Early detection and prompt treatment can help save nearly 90 percent of all women with early stage breast cancer. This is primarily done through a yearly mammogram,” says Dr. Wymer.

“After all the national publicity and controversy surrounding the change in recommended ages for mammograms, I was half-way expecting a false positive result,” says Carolyn. “When the mammogram revealed a suspicious spot, I thought this was the hassle women felt when they were screened too early, and it would turn out to be nothing.” In Carolyn’s case, however, a biopsy revealed the spot contained cancerous cells. “I was skeptical up until I received the results – the biopsy was absolutely conclusive I had cancer,” says Carolyn.

When the results of Carolyn’s mammogram required further attention, Dr. Wymer coordinated the specialized care she needed from Mayo Clinic in Rochester. Carolyn discussed multiple options with her Mayo Clinic oncologist, and together, they opted for a mastectomy to remove the cancer. “The mastectomy gave me a clean bill of health, and since the cancer was detected early enough, I avoided chemotherapy and radiation treatments altogether,” says Carolyn. She adds, “Cancer does put your life on hold with surgery, recovery and, if you need, more treatments, but all of that beats the cancer taking over your life.”

“I am so grateful that Dr. Wymer urged me to get a mammogram,” Carolyn says. “I will encourage all of my friends to be pro-active with their health. Catching it early before it became invasive was incredibly important in preserving my good health. I feel I have a new lease on life.”

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