SoCal woman shares message about detecting breast cancer early

BOYLE HEIGHTS, Calif. (KABC) -- A local Boyle Heights woman shareed a personal and empowering message about working with doctors to detect early signs of breast cancer.

Experts say as women ages, changes in breast tissue may be slow and subtle. Doctors point out that recognizing the changes can make all the difference in catching breast cancer early.

Fifty-seven-year-old Grace Riesjo took a deep breath after discovering something unusual. She felt a soft, strange bump under her arm pit.

"It's like hmm this is kind of funny," she said. "I've never had this before."

The feeling had spread to her lymph nodes. Fortunately, Grace often did self-exams, doctors said.

Radiation Oncologist Dr. Sheri Marquez of Adventist White Memorial said self exams should be performed a week after a woman's period or the first of every month for post menopausal women.

"It's not what your breast feels like in any one time," Dr. Marquez said. "It's about any changes you feel over time"

"Compare one side to the other," she said. "You have an inborn control to check out so you can check one breast against the other. That's another way on your own before you see your doctor."

Before feeling the soft lump, Grace discovered another tell-tale sign of breast cancer: a circle of dimpling on her skin.

"If I had any idea this was a sign, I would've reached out," Riesjo said.

Doctors say to be on the look out for dimpling, indentations, inverted nipple, discharge, or any other unusual changes.

"One sign of breast cancer is a breast that's starting to shrink in size." Dr. Marquez said. "It may not feel like a mass or feel like a skin dimpling."

Grace remains positive as she moves through treatment, but adds she might have been diagnosed earlier if she didn't skip a mammogram. She said life just got in the way.

"If there's a message to all women out there is that to make sure they themselves become their first priority," Riesjo said.

Dr. Marquez also adds lack of insurance or inability to pay should not be a barrier. She said many hospitals such as Adventist White Memorial offer programs to help women take charge of their health.
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