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Wednesday, 28 September 2016 06:45

Breast cancer education advocate becomes patient

Written by  Courtesy Charlotte Radiology

Charlotte Radiology’s Katie Robbins puts into practice what she preaches.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- For the past 11 years, Katie Robbins, marketing and practice relations director and customer experience officer at Charlotte Radiology, has viewed October as the most important month of the year. During Breast Cancer Awareness Month, she’s worked hard to plan events that educate local women about the importance of mammography and early detection.

But last December, Robbins’ work took on an even deeper significance.

At age 42 — and with no family history of breast cancer — she was diagnosed with an aggressive form of the disease. There had been no sign of it on her two previous annual mammograms.

“We’ve always been passionate about educating women about breast health,” says Michelle Russell, breast services marketing and practice relations manager and Robbins’ colleague and friend. “Behind every breast cancer diagnosis, there’s a real woman with a family, friends, perhaps a job, a life she wants to live. We’ve always tried to not just cite statistics in our marketing but to put a face on this disease. In fact, we produced a video last year that featured real women and their stories. But Katie’s unexpected diagnosis has literally brought it home to us. Mammograms save lives. Period.”

Robbins’ case (no risk factors or family history) is not unique. In fact, 75 percent of women diagnosed with breast cancer have no family history.

“Many women develop cancer in their 40s,” says Dr. Deborah Agisim, Charlotte Radiology’s chief of mammography services. “Data from Charlotte Radiology shows that over a 12-year period, 20 percent of the cancers found by mammograms were in women between 40 and 49.”

Robbins didn’t ask to be the poster girl for early screening, according to Russell, “but because she and her family have been so profoundly and unexpectedly impacted by this disease, she has become our most outspoken, passionate advocate.”

Charlotte Radiology is organizing several community events to raise awareness and funds. For the fifth consecutive year, Pink Pint Night will be the centerpiece event. All proceeds will benefit Carolinas Breast Cancer Fund, a Levine Cancer Institute initiative that increases access to life-saving mammography screenings and follow-up care for uninsured women. Donations to Carolinas Breast Cancer Fund make possible “Free Mammography Days” in targeted underserved populations.

“There are many women like me,” Robbins said. “I want them to have the same opportunity for a happy outcome.” Robbins had surgery, has completed aggressive chemotherapy and is currently undergoing radiation. She’s always been a visible, vocal presence at awareness events in October. This year, her presence will resonate.

Community events this October include:

• Fifth annual Pink Pint Night. Thursday, Sept. 29, from 4 to 8:30 p.m., at NoDa Brewing Company’s new location at 2921 N.Tryon St. The event is free, open to the public and reservations are not required. The kickoff event will feature live music, silent auction, food trucks and a special pink brew.

Guests raising $150 or more (the cost of one mammogram) will have exclusive VIP benefits at the event, including two beers, a pint glass, light appetizers, reserved seating area and VIP bar access. Visit CharlotteRadiology.com/PinkPintNight for more information about VIP benefits, to make a donation or to create a personal fundraising page.

A silent auction will feature prizes from Charlotte Motor Speedway, Total Wine & More, Hunstad/Kortesis Plastic Surgery & MedSpa, Flywheel, Visualite Theatre, Kendra Scott, Charlotte Knights, Dean & Deluca and more. Sponsors include Harris Development Group, iHeart Media, Action Pest Exterminating, Medical Coaches, Coca Cola, TelWare, Denise Antonacci Salon and Levine Cancer Institute. A portion of proceeds from every beer sold — and 100 percent of the proceeds from the auction, VIP fundraising efforts and merchandise sales — will fund mammograms for local, uninsured women through Levine Cancer Institute: Project PINK.

This October, Charlotte Radiology is expanding Project PINK and adding Project PINK Plus, a diagnostic service for local, uninsured women with new breast concerns. “Project PINK is a screening tool for the most vulnerable women in our community,” says Russell. “Project PINK Plus takes that a step further, offering diagnostic mammography services — free of charge — to uninsured women who may have found a lump.”

• Charlotte Radiology Bras Contest: A fun and artistic way to create a buzz. More than a dozen bras will be displayed at events around Charlotte to raise awareness about the importance of early detection. The bras, created by teams from Charlotte Radiology, will pop up throughout the month at breast cancer awareness events. The public may vote for their favorite bra at the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure and on Charlotte Radiology social media pages.

• Junior League of Charlotte Wearhouse: An educational event and window display, store mannequins will be dressed in pink and white attire for the month. Seven will be wearing pink and one will wear white to represent the one in eight American women who will develop breast cancer during her lifetime.

In 2016, Charlotte Radiology expanded service offerings to provide greater access to life-saving screening tests. Now, all five sites, including one of the mobile units, offer tomosynthesis (“tomo”). Tomo can offer better visualization for radiologists working with certain groups of patients — particularly those with dense breasts.

In addition, Charlotte Radiology opened a new breast center in Mooresville in September.

For a complete list of all October activities, visit beatcancercr.com, and click on the events tab. For more information about Charlotte Radiology, visit charlotteradiology.com.