How Rescheduling A Delayed Mammogram Saved A Life

Nov 9, 2022


After delaying her annual mammogram, a rescheduled screening saved Dolores Gallegos’ life. 

Dolores Gallegos has always been vigilant about her yearly mammograms. That is, until the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Like many of us, Gallegos opted to skip her 2020 screening to avoid encountering someone with the virus.  

“Because of COVID, I hadn’t been for a mammogram in almost two years,” Gallegos says. “When things with the virus calmed down some, I felt it was time.” 

Fortunately, Gallegos had a feeling she should reschedule her mammogram at the Adventist Health Hanford Breast Care Center in September 2021. When the results showed something suspicious, she says, she was asked to return for a diagnostic ultrasound so the radiologist could get a closer look. 

Further Reading: Conquering Breast Cancer 

Compassionate support 

After the ultrasound, Gallegos’ doctor ordered a biopsy to confirm a diagnosis and test the tumor for genetic mutations. When the provider came in to perform the biopsy, Gallegos was crying.  

“He asked me why I was crying, and I told him, ‘Because I might have cancer,’” says Gallegos, whose mother and brother died of cancer. 

The doctor assured Gallegos that even if the biopsy resulted in bad news, she was in good hands. They would take care of her.  

Sure enough, Gallegos received a diagnosis of breast cancer in her gynecologist’s office after the biopsy. Again, she started crying.  

“I’ve been with my OB-GYN for 30 or 40 years,” Gallegos says. “He stayed and comforted me; so did his nurse. Then he said, ‘Dolores, my dear, I’m going to send you to Dr. Ibironke Adelaja. She’s a breast cancer surgeon at Adventist Health Hanford, and she’s one of the best.’”  

The best birthday gift 

Gallegos was so nervous, she asked her oldest son to come with her to see Dr. Adelaja. Quickly, the surgeon allayed Gallegos’ fears.  

“She told me not to worry, because we had found the cancer early,” Gallegos says. “She said she would need to consult with the medical oncologist but was pretty sure I wouldn’t need chemo or radiation. That really made me feel a lot better.” 

And Dr. Adelaja was correct. At her next appointment, Gallegos received the good news that she would not need any additional treatment beyond a hormone blocker, which prevents estrogen from promoting further growth of the cancer. She also learned the results of the genetic testing. Gallegos’ tumor was negative for inheritable gene mutations, meaning she wouldn’t have to worry that she had passed a cancer-causing gene to her sons or grandchildren. 

Next, Dr. Adelaja told Gallegos she would be scheduled for surgery on Friday, Jan. 7. Gallegos was delighted; Jan. 7 is her birthday.  

“I told Dr. Adelaja it was the best birthday gift she could give me, to take the cancer out,” Gallegos says. “And that’s what she did.” 

Spreading the word 

Gallegos says everyone she encountered at the hospital for her surgery was wonderful, and she was in and out the same day. She recovered quickly, and says the area was tender but never painful. By Sunday, she was up for walking to a nearby park with her granddaughter.  

Today, Gallegos is cancer-free, faithfully attending her follow-up doctor visits. She tells anyone who will listen to schedule their breast cancer screenings.  

“I say, ‘You need to go make an appointment now. If you don’t, I’m going to call your doctor and make an appointment for you.’ That usually works,” she says. 

Gallegos describes the care she received from Adventist Health providers as “excellent.”  

“Friends told me to go to UCLA or Santa Barbara [for treatment], but I said no,” Gallegos says. “I was born in Hanford. I served on the city council. I wanted to stay here. And I’m so glad I did.” 

Are you due for your screening? 

Women at average risk of breast cancer should begin annual screening mammograms at age 40 and continue for as long as they’re in good health. Women at increased risk of breast cancer, including those with a strong family history or certain inherited genetic mutations, should talk to their doctors about beginning screening sooner and which test is best for them. 

Further Reading: What Is My Risk For Breast Cancer?