July 20, 2020
Behind the Mask: Annie S, Medical Assistant
Annie Sandt is a Certified Medical Assistant at KC CARE’s Northeast location. She’s seen many changes over her 35 years in the healthcare industry, but somehow “there’s always something new.” Something new could be a breakthrough or a challenge, but it’s always been about helping other people—patients, physicians, and co-workers “who are really friends.” But almost two years ago, the something new wasn’t about other people; it was about herself.
Annie was diagnosed with breast cancer. Getting diagnosed with breast cancer for Annie, like many folks, is a longer process that starts with a mammogram (x-rays of the breast). As recommended, Annie got a mammogram every year. She remembers the first time she got one, she joked, “Shouldn’t there be another way?” But knowing the medical side of things, she knew it was necessary and kept her appointment every year.
It was during one of these routine screenings in 2018 that something a little different happened. It was simple, but it’s stuck out in her mind, “The mammogramist was checking out the left side when they said, ‘Now turn a little to the right and step forward.’” It was a really, really simple moment, but just slightly out the ordinary. However, the screening was quickly over and there was no initial indication of anything wrong. That was a Thursday. Annie remembers on Monday, they were calling her back in to get a better look.
This better look was called taking a spot compression view and ended up being step 2 of 12 before being fully diagnosed with breast cancer. After the long journey to diagnosis consisting of a series of ultrasounds, two surgeries and much more, the doctors determine Annie will need months of chemotherapy followed by weeks of radiation treatments.
Happily, in March of just this year, Annie is relieved to that the cancer is gone.
But every step along the way, Annie keeps thinking back to that one moment in August of 2018—when the mammogram technician noticed something, and her doctor requested a follow-up. She wonders…
What would have happened if she hadn’t gone in for her routine mammogram?
What if she had just skipped a year?
What would her cancer have looked like then?
It’s impossible to answer all the little hypotheticals and luckily Annie doesn’t have to, but the experience has taught her a lot. Beyond some new terminology, she learned how rough the process can be, and she can now share with her patients that it’s going to suck, but that they can get through it. Once again, Annie is back to helping others as a Certified Medical Assistant and more. Annie is constantly encouraging people to stay knowledgeable and get their regular screenings. If there’s only one thing you’re going to take away from this, she says,
“Know your family history. Get the mammograms and get them on time. And do not hesitate to do the follow-up.”
KC CARE recommends that people with breasts:
- Know how your breasts normally look and feel and report any changes to a health care provider right away. A lump is not the only symptom of breast cancer.
- Find out if you are at higher than average risk for breast cancer. If you are, talk to a health care provider about when you need to start getting mammograms.
- At ages 40 to 44, you should have the choice to start annual breast cancer screening with mammograms if you wish to do so.
- At ages 45 to 54, you should get mammograms every year.
- At age 55 and older, you should switch to mammograms every 2 years, or can continue yearly screening, based on risk.
Learn more about KC CARE’s programs and services.
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