Olympian uses mom’s story to promote early cancer detection

A startling statistic: 1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer at some point during their lifetime.

Now, an Olympic athlete is using her voice to reach women around the world in the hopes of catching cancer before it turns deadly.

“Growing up, my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer and unfortunately died when I was in college,” said three-time beach volleyball Olympic medalist April Ross. “So, she never got to come with me to the Olympics and see me win the medals that I firmly believe she had a large part in.”

Ross has partnered with GE Healthcare to amplify its Don’t Skip campaign, which reminds women everywhere not to skip their annual mammograms.

“I think if you have never gotten one, it sounds a lot scarier than it is,” Ross said. “Getting that baseline mammogram and then build on it with consistency over time is going such a long way to look out for your own health and for your family as well and to encourage others around you to take control of their own health by doing this as well.”

Radiologist Dr. Joseph Russo said early detection is key. Women who get regular mammograms are 60% less likely to die of breast cancer than those who do not.

“It all starts with the screening mammogram process,” Russo said. “We can’t find the breast cancers unless women are coming in for their mammograms.”

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, breast cancer screenings dropped as much as 87% in some parts of the country during the pandemic.

“I don’t think women needed a lot of excuses not to go for a mammogram'” Russo said. “The fact of the matter is, that it’s a lot more dangerous to not get a mammogram than it is to go for it. Patients are coming back now. When you get your yearly mammogram, you are really doing the most you can do to try to find those small breast cancers.”

It’s recommended that women 40 and older get a mammogram annually. Women may need to start even earlier if they have a history of breast cancer in their family.

“Hopefully, women hear this and it encourages them to get back on track with their yearly mammograms,” Ross said. “Hopefully they talk to their friends and encourage their family members to also get back on track so that going forward, they can do the best they can to take care of their best health.”

For more information on what your first mammogram may look like, you can visit mymammo.com.

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