BUCKHANNON — A local woman hopes sharing her story will save a life.
Robin Prince has Stage 4 advanced breast cancer that has metastasized into her lymph nodes and bones. Her survival rate is just 22 percent.
Since facing her own diagnosis, Prince has become an advocate for early detection.
“One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer,” she said. “Early detection and treatment is everything. Early detection dropped the risk of dying 38 percent between 1980 and now, translating to 297,300 fewer deaths.”
Prince’s story started with a breast reduction surgery in 2010.
“I thought that was reducing my chances [of getting breast cancer],” she said. “I was wrong.”
For six years, Prince did not have mammograms because she thought it would have been detected in the breast tissue that was removed and studied.
In 2016, Prince began noticing pain and discoloration in her left breast but ignored the symptoms for about seven months.
“When I finally did feel around in there, there was a huge mass,” she said.
Prince had no insurance but found the West Virginia Breast and Cervical Cancer Screening program for the uninsured. It helps with screenings so that no woman 40 or older is ever turned away.
Through the program, Prince’s suspicions were confirmed.
“By the time I caught it, it had already went into my lymph nodes and breast bone, which is metastatic breast cancer,” she said.
“Even if you don’t have the symptoms, it’s very important to check your breasts and get yearly mammograms,” she said. “After my diagnosis, it was sad that I didn’t do exams and ignored this life saving act we should all do.”
Had the breast cancer been caught early, there is a 93 percent survival rate for Stage 2. Even Stage 3 has a 72 percent survival rate.
Prince has the most advanced stage with a 22 percent survival rate and a prognosis of three to five years.
“If I hadn’t ignored it, I could have found out a long time ago,” she said.
But Prince didn’t have insurance and she knows there may other women out there in the same boat that could be helped by the West Virginia Breast and Cervical Cancer Screening program.
“By the time you are 40, you should go at least to get the mammogram and start the baseline mammogram,” she said. “Now, they have 3D mammography, which is finding it earlier and reducing the callbacks and false negatives by 40 percent.”
Prince has had chemo and radiation and is undergoing six weeks of treatment, five days a week. She is not giving up without a fight.
“I’m 45,” she said, “a mother of three and a grandmother of three.”
She advocates doing regular self exams.
“The best thing to do is to get acquainted with them, how they look and feel,” she said. “You don’t have to have any symptoms. Get your exam with your doctor. It’s so easy.”