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Breast Cancer Survivor Champions Importance of Regular Mammograms

For Collette D’Amour, 62 of Pelham, NH, life often just got in the way of keeping up with regular checkups. With her husband Richard, a Chief Master Sergeant Munitions Specialist in the Air Force, she was able to experience what many of us only dream of — traveling, living, working and raising her family overseas.

“We lived in England for a total of nine years, and after that traveled to Japan for five years,” said D’Amour. “A lot of people never get to live in a different area of the world, and I’m so happy for the opportunity.”

Upon moving back to the country in 2000, D’Amour went to see her cardiologist at Merrimack Valley Cardiology, Dr. Robert Shulman, in early May. Eager to make sure she was getting all the proper screenings and keeping on top of her health, Dr. Shulman scheduled an appointment for her to get an
annual mammogram screening. At 47, Collette never had one and didn’t yet have a primary care physician (PCP) upon returning to the States.

“I remember it vividly,” says D’Amour. “It all happened so fast. I went in on a Thursday for my mammogram, and Dr. Shulman called me the next day to tell me they found an abnormality. I was immediately scheduled for a biopsy, and when the biopsy was over, they told me it was cancer.”

“I met with Dr. Murat Anamur and a team of physicians at Cancer Care Associates in Lowell General Hospital’s Cancer Center. They went over my case and options with me and my husband. I was  scheduled for my mastectomy at Lowell General in June, began chemotherapy in July, and completed all my treatment in November.”

As a 15-year survivor, D’Amour considers herself extremely lucky. Not only did a mammogram detect the cancer early enough, she didn’t lose her hair or have any extreme reactions to chemotherapy. She explained staying local for her care made it much easier to get through her treatments.

“My husband was able to come with me to all my appointments, and I can’t say enough about the care of Dr. Anamur and his team.

The nurses, doctors, all the staff — they were so kind and compassionate.“ And she ensures her family members stay vigilant with their breast health as well, as she comes from a very large family of 12 — with eight sisters.

“We definitely have the family risk factor, and four of us have undergone treatment for breast cancer. It’s weird, though, none of us have the gene,” she says, referring to the BRCRA gene, where a woman’s risk of developing breast and/or ovarian cancer is greatly increased if she inherits a harmful mutation in the gene.

And her thoughts on getting regular mammograms now?

“Don’t be lax on getting your yearly mammogram — be diligent! My sisters and I, we really coach each other and stay on top of our other four sisters who haven’t had a diagnosis. There’s just no getting out of this important yearly test.”

The American Cancer Society recommends annual mammograms for women after age 40. Call 978-937-6023 to schedule yours today. Mammograms are available at Lowell General Hospital’s main campus and Saints campus, the Women’s Imaging Center in Chelmsford and Circle Health North Andover.

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