When Cindy Foerster of Brookings found a lump on her breast in July 2013, the last thing on her mind was cancer. She was looking forward to celebrating her five-year wedding anniversary with her husband, Matt.
Cindy had doubts about whether it could be breast cancer — she didn’t have a family history, she was only 36, and her most recent checkup had uncovered no concerns.
However, she knew it was important to have it checked out. “The hardest part was waiting for the results. You worry for your kids and family,” she said. Cindy and Matt have two children: Ethan, 5, and Kahlei, 3.
The diagnosis came back as stage III breast cancer. Looking back at that scary, anxiety-filled time, Cindy encourages other women facing a breast cancer diagnosis to trust their care team. “Go to your oncologist. Know that you’re in great hands,” she said. Cindy received care from Amy Krie, MD, Avera Medical Group Oncology & Hematology Sioux Falls.
Spending time with family and friends helped Cindy through her course of treatment. Her immediate family traveled to Sioux Falls to be with her during her chemotherapy sessions. Her sister made the trip from Hawarden, Iowa, and her mother and brother came from Hudson, S.D. “We’d try to make it fun and go out for a good dinner or go shopping afterward,” Cindy said. “It gave me something to look forward to.”
After completing chemotherapy on Jan. 2, 2014, Cindy had a double mastectomy and then received daily radiation therapy. Cindy recalls the challenges of making the daily drive during the winter from Brookings to Sioux Falls for radiation therapy. The weather was unpredictable, and it was tax time, noted Cindy, who works for a Certified Public Accountant. She later underwent reconstructive surgery, and all of her checkups since have been good.
Cindy is now an “Avera Pink Lady,” advocating for breast cancer awareness and early detection. Her advice to other women is to pay attention to any changes in your body. “If there’s a concern, just go in,” she said.
Cindy is also passionate about raising money for breast cancer. She helped organize her first annual sloppy joe and silent auction fundraiser on March 21 in Brookings. The event raised more than $17,000 for Cindy’s Avera Race Against Breast Cancer team, Cindy’s Pink Posse. Cindy chose the Avera Race Against Breast Cancer as a cause to support because it was important to her that the money would support local communities. Avera Race Against Breast Cancer funds are used to enhance cancer care for individuals in Sioux Falls and surrounding communities.
Once women hit age 40 they should make mammogram screenings part of their wellness regimen. But for some women, the process can be stressful if an area of concern or questionable mass is found and more testing is necessary.
The latest technology — 3-D mammography — is providing better images of the breast to cut down on return trips for additional tests. Women who receive a 3-D mammogram are 15 percent less likely to be called back for more testing. Given a majority of callbacks turn out to be non-cancerous, this has the potential to save some women the stress and worry of additional tests.
Also known as digital breast tomosynthesis, 3-D mammography takes several images from multiple angles.
Certain women will especially benefit from 3-D mammograms — women with dense breast tissue, those who have experienced call backs for diagnostic imaging, and women at high risk: family history of breast cancer, lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS), atypical hyperplasia, and/or difficult breast exams.
The American Cancer Society recommends the following guidelines for early detection of breast cancer:
- Yearly mammograms starting at age 40 and continuing for as long as a woman is in good health.
- Clinical breast exam about every three years for women in their 20s and 30s and every year for women 40 and over.
- Women should know how their breasts normally look and feel and report any breast change promptly to their health care provider. Breast self-exam is an option for women starting in their 20s.
To learn more, visit Averacancer.org.