Girls Night Out promotes breast cancer awareness

NORTH PLATTE, Neb. It's a word no woman ever wants to hear.

"Everything flashed through my mind of everything that I was going to miss, because my first thought is, I would die from breast cancer," said breast cancer survivor Deann Montgomery.

Deanne was diagnosed with breast cancer six years ago. But the scariest part, she had no symptoms.

"When I was diagnosed at 47, I had all of those years where everything was clear and I didn't have any masses before," Montgomery said.

After two mammograms and one ultrasound, Deann got a biopsy.

"I chose to have mastectomies just for my personal preference, for my piece of mind because I knew it would spread from one breast to the other, which is the kind of cancer that I had."

Deanne is in her sixth year of being cancer free. She was a guest speaker at the first annual Girls Night Out. It's an outreach program hosted by the West Central District Health Department that was funded through a $55,000 Susan G. Komen Great Plains grant.

"The recommendation is clinical breast exams starting at age 20," said Susan G. Komen Grant Coordinator Janet Livingston. "Then a mammogram starting at age 40, unless there is a risk factor or a family history, then the doctor may recommend starting earlier."

But to make matters worse, Lincoln County is in the top five when it comes to late detection in the state.

"There is a high number of people who are uninsured," Livingston said. "Some of it is fear, some of it is the rural nature of Nebraska and the ease of getting into a doctor."

From now until the month of March, the health agency will be providing free breast screenings and financial assistance for mammograms and ultrasounds to patients who can't afford to pay for those services.

"I hope that it grows and expands so that more and more men and women get a mammogram; a life saving mammogram hopefully," Montgomery said. "Because if you don't get the word out, people don't think it is that important and they are surprised when something happens to them."

Livingston says if someone is not due for a mammogram until March, the health agency can still help the patient up through that point.

"If they are going to their doctor for a clinical breast exam and need help paying for that, they need to check with us first," Livingston said. "If the doctor has an order for them to do a mammogram, we can't personally schedule it, their doctor has to do that. We will just do a voucher for them to do the mammogram at the imaging center."

A health fair is also scheduled for November 11th from 8 am until 2 pm at the Platte River Mall.