Marie Whitehead

Sudbury breast cancer survivor stresses the importance of regular mammograms

Marie Whitehead
Catch the cancer early. That’s the number one thing. It could save your life.

Marie Whitehead says early detection saved her life. It was a conversation about cancer with her doctor 10 years ago that prompted the mother of 2 to get her first mammogram and ultrasound. “If I hadn’t done that, I wouldn’t be here today,” she says.

The screening showed a lump in Marie’s left breast. Because it was caught early, the cancer had not spread to her lymph nodes. “That was the best possible news,” says Marie. “I knew I could beat this.”

Mammograms are the most reliable method to detect breast cancer early, when it can be treated most effectively. However, nearly 40% of Ontario women who should be getting regular mammograms are not. Now Marie and other women are educating women about breast cancer screening and raising funds to support breast cancer research through the Women to Women Movement.

Along with more than 1,000 other ambassadors for the movement, Marie has pledged to have a conversation about the importance of mammograms with 10 women in her life. Her message is simple: “Screening is the most important thing you can do for yourself.”

The Society recommends that women aged 50 to 69 get a mammogram every 2 years.

Marie, who was declared cancer-free after undergoing a lumpectomy and chemotherapy, knows how much harder it is to treat the disease in its late stages. Her mother had breast cancer at the same time as Marie, but the cancer had spread to her skin, bones and brain. She died a short time after Marie began treatment. “We weren’t able to spend a last Christmas together,” she says.

Being a Women to Women ambassador takes just a few hours of her time, but Marie has high hopes it will have a big impact on women’s survival rates.

“Catch the cancer early,” says Marie, who continues to get regular mammograms. “That’s the number one thing. It could save your life.”