There are new recommendations from a key federal health panel for women to be screened for breast cancer a full decade sooner than what has previously been recommended.
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force now says women should begin receiving mammograms at the age of 40 instead of 50.
“If I went by the standard, I wouldn’t be here,” Christine Skivington said. “Early detection saved my life. There’s no doubt about it.”
Her children were ages 4, 8 and 10 when she received devastating news.
“I was diagnosed in October of 2021 with triple negative invasive ductal carcinoma and after that, I went right straight to chemo and 16 rounds of chemo right after that,” she said.
Skivington was just 37 years old then and did not detect any signs through self-exams. She started screening much earlier than the recommended age because her mother had breast cancer at the age of 47.
“I had been getting screened for seven years with an annual mammogram in correlation with an ultrasound because I had dense breast tissue,” she said. “So every year I had gone for that and in 2021 when I went for my routine mammogram, it’s when they found a mass in my breast.”
As bad as the news was, Skivington was thankful the cancer was discovered sooner rather than later.
“Hearing the word cancer, the very first thing I thought of was my kids,” she said. “How are we going to get through that as a family? How am I going to tell my kids? And that was a hard conversation to have. It’s the hardest conversation I’ve ever had to have with my family.”
But what made the conversation easier was the hope that early detection brought.
“Yes, I had this really invasive, aggressive cancer,” Skivington said. “But because it was caught in the early stages, they were able to tackle it with a combination of chemo and drugs, and that really allowed me to have a great outcome at the end of it.”
Skivington says the new recommendations are a step in the right direction, but not far enough.
“Every step forward is a step forward,” she said. “Do I think that it’s enough? In my case, no. In many women that I know? Sooner would have been better. But I’m glad that we’re moving forward. So hopefully, we’ll get to the point where 30’s the new 40 and people are getting screened earlier.”
Skivington will continue to advocate for early breast cancer screening, as her own daughter will someday need her own screenings.
“I love seeing younger women walking in and out of those offices, like, it’s a great feeling to see that because younger women need to be getting screened earlier,” she said.