Your Healthy Family: Breast Cancer Awareness Month highlights importance of self exams & mammograms

Posted at 6:24 AM, Oct 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-26 07:31:49-04

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. — October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, so Fox 4 is looking into the importance of doing self breast exams and getting routine mammograms.

Sami Pickens is from Port Charlotte and was just 28 years old when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She's now cancer-free, but said her self-exams saved her life.

Pickens said she's been active her whole life. She was a cheer leader at Port Charlotte High School and is now a runner.

"I was super sore one night getting out of the shower. I kind of pressed on like my pec muscles, and I felt like a little tiny like seed," she said.

What she thought was a muscle tear or injury turned out to be breast cancer. Pickens had a double mastectomy and was then cancer-free. But she told Fox 4 the idea that you can't get cancer again after a double mastectomy is a myth, and she knew there was always a chance it could come back.

"There's no way to get every cell out of that tissue, so there could be the possibility of a few cells being left, or a thin layer of cells being left that could technically have cancer still on them, or the cancer could come back on those cells," Pickens said.

Seven months after her initial breast cancer diagnosis, the cancer came back.

"I felt a little seed in the same exact spot as the first time, during my breast exam that I now religiously do the first of every month,” Pickens said.

If it weren't for her reminders to do her self-exams each month, Pickens may not have caught the cancer so early.

"If that tiny seed was deeper in the breast tissue, I would've never known it was there. And that's why I think it's so important that people that can get mammograms, get them," she said.

She also said it's important to push for insurance companies to cover mammograms starting at a younger age.

"For those that are high risk, or maybe don't even know their BRCA 1 genetic history, but feel something's wrong, that insurance would cover it sooner for everyone, because you can't feel all of those little lumps," Pickens said.

She said no one taught her before her breast cancer diagnosis about how to do a self exam, and especially at such a young age. For more information on self-exams, click here.