(WSVN) - It’s that time of year. October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. 7’s Karen Hensel shows us the lifesaving work happening at a South Florida hospital in this special assignment report, “Surgery and Survival.”
Dr. Alia Abdulla scrubs in before heading into the operating room. The surgical oncologist has performed hundreds of breast cancer surgeries.
7News was allowed inside the operating room as Dr. Abdulla and a team at Broward Health Medical Center performed what’s called a lumpectomy.
Dr. Alia Abdulla, surgical oncologist, Broward Health: “It was removal of the concerning tissue that was within the breast.”
Dr. Abdulla said the patient could not feel the abnormality. It was identified early on her mammogram.
Dr. Alia Abdulla: “We’ve been able to treat patients in early stage breast cancers, and they’re able to live a normal life going forward.”
Patients like Pamela Josephs.
Pamela Josephs, breast cancer survivor: “Last year, when I did my mammogram, they saw something.”
Dr. Alia Abdulla: “That ended up on biopsy showing invasive ductal carcinoma.”
Pamela Josephs: “When I got the call, I started to cry, but my daughter was with me, and you know, they sort of propped me up and said, ‘Mommy it’s grade I. Thank God it’s not grade IV.”
Because it was caught early, Pamela did not need radiation or chemotherapy, just medication after the surgery.
Pamela Josephs: “It made me feel relieved that it was out of my body, to know that this cancer was out.”
Both the mammogram that helped doctors diagnose Pamela’s breast cancer and the surgery to remove it happened during the COVID pandemic.
Pamela Josephs: “I think about if I had missed it and put it off, I would not have known.”
But Dr. Abdulla says there have been women who delayed their mammograms because of coronavirus concerns.
Dr. Alia Abdulla: “They don’t want to come into the hospital or to a facility to get their mammograms. It absolutely is concerning.”
The American Cancer Society estimates about 281,550 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in women nationwide in 2021. Sadly, they estimate 43,600 women will die from it.
Researchers are also studying the impact pandemic-related cancer diagnosis delays may have in the years to come.
Dr. Alia Abdulla: “We have data from the [National Institutes of Health] that has projected that we are going to have additional deaths from cancer, specifically because of the COVID pandemic.”
This cancer survivor has some simple advice.
Pamela Josephs: “Make sure that you do your mammograms. Make sure, because you never know what is happening.”
On this day, after performing surgery in the morning, by the afternoon, Alia Abdulla went from doctor to patient, getting her first mammogram.
Dr. Alia Abdulla: “I am at the age where I’m supposed to start having mammograms. I do think that they say that doctors make the worst patients, and that probably applies to me.”
Experts say yearly mammograms for women start at age 40 and definitely should happen at age 45. Bottom line: doctors say catching breast cancer early saves lives.”
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