Anne Zakem

My name is Anne Zakem. I was one of the 20,000+ Islanders without a doctor, until I was diagnosed with breast cancer.

My mammogram screening in March 2021 stated no indication of breast cancer, no detection of any abnormality suggestive of breast cancer. There was a note at the bottom of the report that I had dense breast tissue, but there was no indication of what could be done next for additional screening. However, I DID have breast cancer. The largest of the 3 masses was 4cm in size. I found my breast cancer through self-exam.

I had to be my own advocate. I was the one that had to push for further screening beyond a mammogram even when I had issues with my left breast in the past. By the time I began treatment in August 2021, the cancer had spread to my lymph nodes. My breast cancer could have been found earlier if the standard method of screening was different in PEI. If I had received an ultrasound as a follow up to my mammogram due to my dense breast tissue, I likely would be telling a different story today.

Not only was my breast cancer diagnosis delayed but I had to push for additional screening and wait 4 months. If I listened to the letter from the PEI Breast Screening Program and waited 1 year for my next mammogram, I would be telling a different story.

The other side of breast cancer that no one seems to talk about is the after effects. Being off work for 1.5 years. Being on LTD and only making 70% of my income. I have endured chemotherapy, double mastectomy, radiation, and now am on estrogen blocking medication for the next 10 years. This could have been prevented with earlier detection when I requested an ultrasound. Please listen to your own body and be your own advocate. Everyone’s life matters!