Cancer survivor calls recent announcement 'great news'

Posted at 5:24 PM, May 15, 2023

RICHMOND, Va. -- Tara Daudani felt something wrong while changing her clothes one Saturday night in 2018. The then 37-year-old mother of two felt a lump in one of her breasts.

"You don't want to believe that anything's really wrong, but still there was this nagging feeling inside that I needed to get it looked at, and looked at more closely so we could figure out exactly what was going on," Daudani said. "And it was scary. You know, you hope that it's nothing, but you prepare for the worst."

Daudani got screened as soon as possible.

She was diagnosed with Stage 3 triple-negative breast cancer, one of the most aggressive forms of the disease.

"It was a shock through my system," Daudani said. "I just remember waves of heat going up and down my body. I knew it was a possibility, but until you hear those words and your life changes, it's just a shock."

Daudani, a former producer with CBS 6, said she underwent eight rounds of chemo, 25 rounds of radiation, and seven surgeries, sharing her experience with chemo treatment earlier this year.

She's now living cancer free and credited the quick response to saving her life.

When she found out the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force changed its suggestion for people at average risk of breast cancer to getting frequent mammograms as early as age 40, a reversal from its previous suggestion of starting at age 50, Daudani was thrilled.

"I kinda said, 'Finally.' This is great news," Daudani said.

Dr. Mary Helen Hackney, with VCU's Massey Cancer Center, said one of the concerns that led the task force to recommend doing mammograms later in life was related to more women potentially being subject to more biopsies.

However, she said she and other oncologists have consistently recommended people start getting a yearly mammogram starting at age 40.

"People worry about mammography in general, they say, 'Oh, it's uncomfortable, or it exposes you to a lot of radiation. The radiation is minimal," Dr. Hackney said. "I tell people, two minutes per each side to save your life is a small price."

The move from the task force comes as Hackney said many people put off getting screened during the COVID-19 pandemic, despite higher rates of diagnoses among younger women.

"A lot of people were scared to come to a physician's office to get their mammograms, so people have not paid attention to some of the screening tools. So, it's not uncommon right now that we see people were, you know, sometimes almost three years away from having had a mammogram, because they were nervous about a physician's office doing a screening," Dr. Hackney said.

About one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer at some point in their life, according to the National Cancer Institute.

Dr. Hackney said the change will help address health disparities among women who are diagnosed.

"One out of five Black women or African American women who get diagnosed with breast cancer get triple-negative breast cancer. And triple-negative breast cancer is one of the most aggressive breast cancers out there. And early detection is the best way that we can save lives from that cancer," Dr. Hackney said.

Daudani, who now sits on the Board of the Virginia Breast Cancer Foundation, said it can also save patients from confusion, who may hear different recommendations from different sources.

"With those varying recommendations, it created a lot of confusion, and it created a way for people to say, 'I'm going to wait and I'm going to have this done later. But we know every year, more and more young women, women under 50 are getting diagnosed with breast cancer. And we also know that detecting and treating the cancer, early saves lives," Daudani said. "It aligns all the guidance, which is really important. The other thing is, this panel is tied to coverage through the Affordable Car Act. So, this protects coverage for mammograms, making it easier and cheaper for women to get these very important screenings."

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