In December of 2020, at the age of 37, Elizabeth Keller, LSW, OSW-C, a Social Worker at McGlinn Cancer Institute at Reading Hospital was diagnosed with breast cancer. “I started getting mammograms at the age of 35 because I have a family history of breast cancer,” she said. “I did what I was supposed to do based on my history and they found the cancer early. If I would have waited my story could have been very different.”
Elizabeth shared that working at McGlinn Cancer Institute comforted her in several ways when she began her cancer journey. “I already knew the members of my care team and were confident they would provide me the same high level of care I’ve seen them give to all their patients. I meet with members of the team regularly, so I was aware we have the best treatments and technology available.”
“Our most recent Community Health Needs Assessment showed us that breast cancer is the most common type of cancer in our communities,” said Suzanne Wenderoth, MD, Chief Medical Officer at Tower Health and Reading Hospital.
According to data from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Berks County is ranked 53rd out of 67 counties among women ages 65 to 74 who have Medicare, with only 38 percent receiving an annual mammogram between 2012 to 2020. Chester County is ranked 42nd with 40 percent screened and Montgomery County is ranked 38th with 41 percent screened.
“Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in women,” Dr. Wenderoth continued. “In the United States, 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed at some point in their lives. A mammogram is the best way to detect breast cancer early so treatment is less invasive and survival rates are much higher. Mammograms are truly your best defense against breast cancer.”
Now, almost three years since her diagnosis, and cancer free, Elizabeth has a unique perspective she can share with patients. “I feel like I can give more to patients now,” she said. “When someone is diagnosed with cancer a lot can get lost, especially for women, emotionally. There are highs and lows, and some individuals feel guilty or are afraid to ask for help.” When she identifies this in a patient she spends more time with them and offers supportive counseling. “Reminding someone that it’s ok to be upset or angry can go a long way,” Elizabeth said.
Dr. Wenderoth added, “Women’s health is always something I’ve been passionate about. This October I’m encouraging everyone to remind all the women in their lives to schedule their annual mammogram. It could save the life of someone you love.”
To schedule a mammogram at a Tower Health breast imaging center, call 1-833-34-TOWER or log in to MyTowerHealth. You can also schedule an appointment with our Reading Hospital Mobile Mammography Coach, sponsored by the Reading Hospital Foundation, which uses the same state-of-the-art technology found at any of our breast imaging centers. Visit TowerHealth.org/MobileMammo to view upcoming event dates and locations and call 1-833-34-TOWER to schedule an appointment.