'I found a lump:' When it comes to beating breast, cancer early detection can save lives

MILWAUKEE -- When it comes to beating breast cancer, we know early detection can save lives. That’s the whole premise behind our FOX6 initiative, Buddy Check 6.

Katy Mihalko

It’s not only important to understand our risk for diagnosis, but also to be in-tune with what our bodies look and feel like.

Katy Mihalko’s story starts with the diagnosis of a close friend.

It promoted Mihalko to sign up for a local breast cancer awareness race.

The following day, Mihalko experienced sharp, shooting pains in her left breast.

Instead of just dismissing it, she called her doctor.

“She asked if I found a lump,” said Mihalko. “At that time, I hadn’t looked for a lump and wasn’t aware that would be an important step.”

Katy Mihalko

Mihalko did a self-breast exam at home and did, indeed, find a lump.

“It was a pretty subtle finding and a good pickup on her part that she was looking for differences and changes in her breast,” said Dr. Miraj Shah-Khan, Surgical Oncologist with Froedtert and The Medical College of Wisconsin.

After an ultrasound confirmed the mass in her breast, Mihalko had an biopsy and her worst fear was confirmed.

She was diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma.

Despite the diagnosis, Mihalko knew it was time to fight this battle, as her children were just nine, eight, and five years old at the time of her diagnosis.

“I turned on a mode of ‘here we go, we need to fight this,’” said Mihalko. “The thought of leaving the kids wasn’t possible.”

Katy Mihalko

“It’s important to trust your gut to understand when something isn't feeling right,” said Dr. Shah-Khan. “Whether it`s something you feel or your overall wellness and be your own advocate.”

Following chemotherapy, surgery, and infusions, Mihalko is cancer-free and advocating to others the importance of breast self-awareness.

“Too often we`re willing to dismiss things, thinking I`m overreacting,” said Mihalko. “My body alerted me that something wasn't right, which is not common, but had I just dismissed it, I don`t know where I would be.”

“It’s important for women to get an understanding of how their breasts look and feel normally so if there are changes, they can detect that,” said Dr. Shah-Khan.

Both Mihalko and Dr. Shah-Khan agree it’s important to make yourself a priority.

“If I could do anything, it’d be to advocate to other people,” said Mihalko. “Trust yourself and be confident you can listen to your body.”