BILLINGS — Billings resident Sandy Stanley had no idea she was living with stage four breast cancer until Billings Clinic urged her to get a mammogram. Now the breast cancer survivor wants to share her story with other women who might be hesitant to get screened.
Nationwide, 300,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer each year, but 52-year-old Stanley never imagined she would be one of them.
“I was diagnosed with breast cancer with my very first mammogram that I ever, ever, did,” Stanley said on Tuesday.
For Stanley, scheduling a mammogram wasn’t a priority.
“I just don’t go to doctors. I’ve always been healthy, never had any issues,” said Stanley.
When her doctor at Billings Clinic told her that she was two years overdue for a breast cancer screening, she didn’t think too much of it.
“I still never had scheduled it, so two months later, I still had never scheduled it and they called me, and had they not called me, I probably still would not have scheduled it,” Stanley said.
Fortunately for her, the hospital did call because it may have saved her life. Stanley finally went in for her first mammogram and found out that not only did she have stage four breast cancer, she was also positive for a genetic mutation called BRCA 2.
“That means that it’s even more aggressive and I have more chances of other kinds of cancers if I didn’t do specific things,” said Stanley.
She’s undergone surgery, radiation and chemotherapy, but that’s not all.
“She’s also dealing with surgeries to decrease the chance that she develops more cancers down the road,” said Stanley’s radiation oncologist at Billings Clinic, Dr. Breanne Terakedis, on Thursday.
Terakedis knows how intimidating it can be for women to get screened.
“Just the thought of a breast cancer diagnosis, the thought of coming in for another appointment, for many women, they do kind of drag their feet and put it off a little bit,” Terakedis said.
But it’s vital as one in eight women is diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime and it claims the lives of over 40,000 women each year.
It’s been less than a year since Stanley’s diagnosis, but she’s now considered to be cancer free.
“I still have my mastectomy that I will have in a couple of weeks, and then hopefully, that will be the last hurdle,” said Stanley.
She hopes others will take her message to heart.
“When somebody tells you, you need to schedule those routine things, what’s it going to hurt to go through it? Just schedule it and do it,” Stanley said.