HealthBuddy Check 6


She found a lump in her breast three times. Now she has life-saving advice for women in Virginia.

Posted at 3:09 PM, Mar 06, 2024
and last updated 2024-03-06 15:09:03-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- Anne McNeal is counting her blessings and thankful for every day.

McNeal, 76, has battled breast cancer three different times.

“Cancer was a surprise all three times, but the fact that I found it myself was even more of a surprise,” McNeal said.

McNeal found a lump in her breasts in 2006, 2017, and again in 2022.

All three times she was lying in bed.

She said she remembered the first time feeling the lump.

“It felt different and that's the key is knowing that. I’m glad I went and checked on it. Had I not, it would have grown and things would have been different,” McNeal said.

With the first diagnosis, McNeal had a lumpectomy and radiation.

The second cancer would come in her other breast.

That diagnosis inspired her pink hairdo and a conversation starter.

“It would give me an opportunity to advocate for self-detection,” McNeal said.

In 2022, the third diagnosis was her toughest fight.

Just months after getting a mammogram, McNeal found a tumor - again.

“It was bigger than the other two, so it had to be there and they didn't catch it. I was really scared because after you've radiated they say we can only radiate your breast once so that meant I was going to lose my breasts,” McNeal said.

McNeal had to adjust to life without her breasts and hair.

“Mammograms are great. They detect breast cancer early, but they still miss about 10% of breast cancers,” Dr. Mary Helen Hackney, with VCU Massey Comprehensive Cancer Center, said.

Dr. Hackney said women still need to get routine mammograms and they need to know their bodies.

“Periodically, every month or so. See what the breast feels like. Look for lymph nodes. Above your collarbone. Look for lumps in your armpit,” Hackney said.

Hackney said women should start breast self-exams in their 20s and do it after they've had their period.

They should "look" for changes around the nipple and feel for lumps.

“Most of the lumps people find feel like hard rubber balls. If it's hard and firm, it needs to be checked out,” Hackney said.

During McNeal’s 18-year breast cancer journey, she said the support and the treatments have changed the most.

“I can't imagine what it's going to be like five years from now,” McNeal said.

McNeal experienced hair loss during her third diagnosis.

She said when her hair grows back, she’s going pink again.

She will also continue to advocate for breast self-exams.

Depend on CBS 6 News and for in-depth coverage of this important local story. Anyone with more information can email to send a tip.

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