Martha Gray takes her annual mammograms seriously knowing both her mother and aunt were diagnosed with breast cancer in their early 40's. Martha just turned 50.
"I would ask every year, is there anything else I need to know, new research?" Gray said.
The teacher from Holy Trinity persisted a bit more this year when talking to her doctor back in January and decided to take Norton Cancer Institute's high-risk assessment. She tested negative for any genetics that may play a factor, however, she had extremely high odds with her family's history.
"To me, it was like the Holy Spirit. It could be your sixth sense. It could be that little voice, saying something's not right."
Her mammogram came back clear. She pushed for an MRI and then an ultrasound. The doctors brought Gray back in for an MRI-guided biopsy which found invasive lobular carcinoma in her left breast.
“I decided on a double mastectomy,” Gray said.
A week later, she learned the mammogram and MRI had missed cancer on her right side completely.
Gray's oncologist Dr. Laila Agrawal says mammograms may not catch 10-15% of cancers and here's why:
"There can be some breast cancers that are too small to show up well on a mammogram or come up so fast that a woman may have had a normal mammogram a couple of months ago and then feels a mass herself which turns up to be breast cancer," Dr. Laila Agrawal said.
She says screenings are still the best way to detect cancer early and sharing your family's history with your physician is imperative to becoming your own advocate. You may be eligible for further screenings.
Gray has had to step away from her students while she recuperates from surgery, but they've made it very clear, they're ready for her to come back.
"They surprised me one day with a zoom where they were all wearing pink t-shirts. I can't tell you how lucky I feel,” Gray said.