If you’re a country music fan living in Richmond, you’ve most likely heard VPFW patient Lori Kelly’s voice come through your radio. In fact, you may have even heard her story. As the morning DJ at K95 who is passionate about women’s health, Lori has used her voice to help VPFW encourage women to stay on top of their annual OB/GYN visits and routine screenings for years. Why? She has personally seen the benefits of those annual visits and screenings first-hand—now for the second time in her life.
We had the good fortune of interviewing Lori so that she could share her story and continue helping us spread the word that mammograms save lives. One in eight women will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer during their lifetime, but annual screenings can help detect cancer earlier when it’s more treatable and chances for long-term survival are higher. We are so grateful to have Lori as a women’s health advocate in the community and hope our patients are encouraged by her story.
Tell us about your breast cancer diagnosis
Lori: In March of this year after receiving my annual mammogram, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I learned the news just months before I reached the five-year mark of being diagnosed with uterine cancer. Since my uterine cancer had been found early, the only treatment necessary was a hysterectomy. My doctors continued watching me for signs of breast cancer very closely due to the fact that uterine and breast cancer are often found together.
I have always gotten a mammogram at my annual VPFW appointment, so my breast cancer was also detected very early (Stage 0!) and treated with surgery and radiation. I truly believe that early detection is what has kept me alive.
Did you say “Stage 0?”
Lori: Yes! My breast cancer was found in what is considered Stage 0. It is the most common type of breast cancer, ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), which is a non-invasive cancer where abnormal cells have been found in the lining of the breast milk duct. In Stage 0 breast cancer, the atypical cells have not spread outside of the ducts or lobules into the surrounding breast tissue. (“In situ” means “in the original place.) It is very early cancer that is highly treatable, but if left undetected or untreated, it can spread into the surrounding breast tissue.
Do you know if your cancer is hereditary?
Lori: Only about 5-10% of breast cancer cases are thought to be hereditary, meaning they are the result of gene mutations passed on from a parent. This is another reason why routine mammograms are important for catching breast cancer early: most women who are diagnosed don’t have any family history or special risk factors to hint that the cancer might develop.
To determine if I had a mutation in the BRCA gene (BReast CAncer gene), I did have a genetic test done. I did not have a mutation—which means neither of my cancers are hereditary. Both my uterine cancer and breast cancer are estrogen-based, so I will be taking an estrogen blocker for the next 10 years to keep my chances of either cancer coming back very low.
However, my genetic test did show I am at a higher risk for kidney cancer and melanoma. My doctors are watching closely for both of these. I have not been much of a sun person and will be using all the SPF’s!
Do you prefer 3D mammograms?
Lori: Yes. A 3D mammogram (breast tomosynthesis) is an imaging test that combines multiple breast X-rays to create a three-dimensional picture of the breast. I have been getting 3D mammograms for years. Luckily, most insurance plans now cover 3D mammograms. I continue to tell anyone who listens, if your insurance won’t cover a 3D mammogram, ask for one anyway, and pay the little extra because you are worth it.
Thanks for always helping us remind women how important it is to stay on top of their annual screenings.
Lori: My message these days is to let everyone know that mammograms save lives. It’s great news that VPFW now offers mammography services at four locations in greater Richmond and Prince George. The increase in capacity helps women get their mammograms when they need them, where they need them, without having to wait months for an appointment.
I truly believe I have faced cancer twice in my life for a reason: I sit in front of a microphone every day and have the ability to encourage other women to be proactive about their health. This is now my personal mission because I know from my experience it could potentially save their lives.