Routine mammogram leads to early cancer diagnosis
When KC Atchinson shared an update through Facebook in April 2022, she’d just received news that no one is ever quite ready to hear.
“This is your friendly reminder to get those regular health screenings, my loves. Found out yesterday I have breast cancer. It’s stage 1, very treatable, so nothing to worry too much about, but thankful that LMH kept nagging me about that mammogram I was a few months overdue for.”
Atchinson had undergone prior mammograms at LMH Health without too much fanfare. Following her December 2020 mammogram, she was called back in for additional imaging. That revealed nothing more than a cyst, so she was advised to return in one year for another routine mammogram.
Working as the director of the Office of Equity and Title IX at the University of Missouri Kansas City and a single mom, Atchinson maintains both a busy work and home life. When it came time to schedule her next mammogram, she put it off for a while.
“It seems like an excuse, but I’m busy and forgetful about making regular appointments,” she said. “I’d received a couple of reminder letters from LMH, which I’m grateful for. One was on my fridge for quite a while to help jog my memory to make the appointment.”
Atchinson scheduled her mammogram for Tuesday, April 19 at the LMH Health Women’s Center. Nothing was amiss during the appointment but a couple of hours afterward, she received a call that the team wanted to get some more images. Expecting to have a cyst as with her previous exam, she didn’t think much of it and scheduled the appointment for Thursday – just two days later.
“After the imaging, they said they wanted to send me for a sonogram and I started to wonder what was going on,” she shared. “I was told the radiologist would look at the scan to let me know what they found and that I’d talk with the breast surgeon. That didn’t sound good at all.”
James Werner, MD, a radiologist who works with the LMH Health Women’s Center, came in to talk with Atchinson. He told her they wanted to schedule a biopsy and the team happened to have an opening that day. She knew the less time she had to think about what was going on, the better.
“I was so appreciative of Dr. Werner. He was absolutely awesome,” she said. “I’d brought my 19-year-old daughter with me to the appointment. He was making jokes trying to make her feel comfortable and that helped me as well.”
The biopsy was completed on a Thursday and Atchinson was told her results would be back the following Monday or Tuesday. She didn’t expect a call the next afternoon from Jennifer Hawasli, MD, a surgeon with Lawrence Breast Specialists. The pathology notes were in. They showed carcinoma.