JACKSONVILLE, Fla — Despite having no family history of breast cancer, a mammogram this past May revealed Vencetta Jackson had cancer.
“Just getting dressed one morning, and it was an unusual pain, there was swelling, and I said let me go and get it checked,” Jackson said. “It was just a deep pain.”
She was diagnosed with Stage 2 invasive ductal cancer. It's the most common type of breast cancer.
“It was a deer in headlights in the beginning,” Jackson recalled. “I had to come to myself. And I'm like, what's next? Where do I go from here?”
Her team at Baptist MD Anderson Cancer Center in Jacksonville helped guide her to the next steps. She decided to join a clinical trial to not only help herself but those who will come after her.
“Clinical trials are always trying to move science forward.,” Dr. Jennifer Crozier said. “We're trying to make the treatments people receive less toxic, more precise, and this clinical trial is just that. She's getting standard of care, chemotherapy, no different from anyone else would get somewhere else. But she also has access to a newer drug immunotherapy, so trying to help harness her own immune system to kill the cancer cells.”
Crozier, director of the breast cancer research program, says it's important to know you don't have to have a family history to get breast cancer.
“Breast cancer is one in eight women now," she continued. "So, it's very common. We used to see about one and 12. It is all the way down to one and eight. Multiple factors there. But our technology is getting better with mammograms that luckily, we're finding it more often, but we're finding it just earlier, which is great because it's very treatable and very curable.”
Stage 1 of the most common kind of breast cancer has over a 95% cure rate, so early detection is key.
“We would like people to be doing breast exams once a month," Crozier said. "And to go for your screening mammogram once a year. It's great with the Buddy Check to remind a friend to be doing it as well."
Jackson hopes sharing her story will encourage women to do the Buddy Check 12 program, do a breast self-exam and remind your buddy to do one too on the 12th of every month.
“My friend was diagnosed with breast cancer, and she always used to call me and say Buddy Check, Buddy Check,” Jackson said. “The whole time she was buddy checking, I was not buddy checking so, that was the first thing that came back to my mind is I should have a buddy checked. And I wasn't.”
Her advice is don't neglect yourself, and don't ignore the warning signs.
“Most often it is going to be something you feel, kind of hard pea or a lump,” Crozier said. “But it could be something as much as a rash on the breast. A rash on the breast should always be evaluated. It could be a swelling under your arm, in your armpit.”
Jackson still has to undergo more chemo and plans to have surgery and radiation, but she is keeping hope alive.
“It's been eye-opening, it’s been a blessing. Even though I'm in a situation, I still feel that I can help someone. And I hope I'm doing that by speaking out.”
To get a free Buddy Check 12 kit click here.
To learn more about the clinical trials at Baptist MD Anderson Cancer Center visit their website.