1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer during their lifetime. The disease is expected to take the lives of more than 41,000 women in the U.S. in 2019. However, death rates are decreasing thanks to advances in treatment, early detection and increased awareness.
Since she was a toddler, Dr. Alicia Vinyard wanted to practice medicine. During her senior year of med school, she was diagnosed with breast cancer at just 25 years old.
“I was completely floored, shocked, in disbelief. Honestly, I thought they had the wrong patient,” Dr. Vinyard says.
Her own fight lead her to specialize in breast surgical oncology. Dr. Vinyard went from breast cancer patient to breast cancer surgeon and has dedicated her life to saving others from the disease.
“I was able to explain to them what they were going to go through, how it was going to feel how they would recover, this is what chemo is like, radiation, surgery. I really felt such a bond, I said, you know, I think I want to do breast cancer surgery and directly help these women and so that’s what I went into and specialized in and that’s what I do here everyday,” Dr. Vinyard explains.
Watch below for the full interview with Dr. Alicia Vinyard
Tamika Cook got a similar diagnosis at just 26.
“I was shaving under my arms and I found a lump on my right breast,” Cook describes.
She learned after she was diagnosed that she had two aunts who died from the disease so she was terrified for her own life.
“Cancer, you immediately think of death. I knew nothing about research. I knew nothing about treatment,” Cook says.
Watch the full interview with Tamika Cook below
Treatment for breast cancer is constantly improving. Dr. Vinyard says some of the things she told her patients even just a year ago have since changed.
“For example, some of the pills we have patients take to prevent a recurrence… used to be a daily pill at a certain dose for 5 years and now that pill has reduced to half the dose, 3 years and it’s way more tolerable and the patients are more compliant in taking it. Additionally, chemo therapy has gotten so much more targeted to the tumor that we see such an excellent response rate that a lot of my patients we will actually advocate for them to have chemo before surgery. It will shrink the tumor down to basically nothing,” Dr. Vinyard explains.
Both of these women continue to share their stories to bring awareness.
“If you find something, get it checked out because your are your own body’s advocate,” Cook encourages.
Dr. Vinyard also hosts a Survivor Social. They meet on the 4th Monday of each month from 5:30-6:30P at the Georgia Cancer Center on Laney Walker Boulevard.