Catching breast cancer early is the best chance for survival

Anita Baum was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2006.

December 28, 2006 â?? the day that forever changed Anita Baum's life.

"You know when they say life flashes before your eyes, it's not your past life that flashes before your eyes,â?? Anita Baum of Waterford said. â??It's the life you haven't lived yet that flashes before your eyes."

A yearly mammogram and then needle biopsy showed Baum had Stage 1 breast cancer. She had no family history. She had just turned 50 years old.

Baum knew right away, she wanted a double mastectomy.

"I wanted them both taken off, because two of my friends had died that year,â?? Baum said.

She opted out of chemotherapy and radiation, and instead went on Tamoxifen and Arimidex to shut down estrogen. Five years and 12 surgeries later, Baum is cancer-free.

She admitted, it wasn't always easy to look on the bright side.

"My mind went to some morbid places," she said.

But, she said, it could have been worse, had she put off her yearly exams.

Dr. Linda Lawrence, director of the McLaren Imaging Center in Flint, said, "If we catch something very early, your quality of life is going to be much better, because you're potentially going to be cured."

In fact, Dr. Lawrence said, if caught early, breast cancer is nearly 100 percent curable.

Women with a family history of the disease should be especially diligent about getting regular mammograms.

"If you had a sister that got breast cancer at age 45, we would recommend that you start getting your mammogram at age 35,â?? Dr. Lawrence said.

A mammogram usually takes less than an hour. As Anita Baum can attest, Itâ??s a little discomfort that can save your life.

"This is what you can do,â?? she said.

â??You can survive if you detect it early enough."

Today, Baum enjoys spending time with her grandkids and doing everything she thought she'd never be able to do.

Itâ??s a new lease on life she might have never gotten, without that December day in the hospital exam room that gave her a fighting chance.