By Rose Posival
Killeen Daily Herald
Like most college students, Alyssa Rivera, 18, has aspirations. She wants to become a registered nurse; in her free time, she volunteers at the Killeen Free Clinic.
A few months ago, Rivera discovered something that shook her world; she found a lump in her breast.
"I did a self-examination, and I came across a hard lump. It scared me to death," said Rivera, of Killeen.
Results of an ultrasound at Metroplex Hospital showed that the Central Texas College student has a cystic fibroid, a benign abnormal growth.
so relieved," Rivera said. "My grandmother had breast cancer, and my mom had the same problem (with cystic fibroid)."
Through a grant from the Susan G. Komen Foundation, the Killeen Free Clinic provides a monthly mammogram clinic for women over 40 years old and for women at high-risk for breast cancer. They include women who have previously had breast cancer or a first-degree relative – mother, daughter, sister – who has been diagnosed with breast cancer.
The mammogram clinic is for women who have no health insurance and meet the low-income financial requirements. The clinic considers $1,800 gross monthly income for a single women to be low income.
Kathy Smart is a nurse practitioner at the Free Clinic.
"I've always liked working with females, I guess because it's familiar," said Smart, 53, of Harker Heights.
She started as a nurse practitioner in the military, where she spent 20 years. After retirement, she took a position at Central Texas College as a professor in nursing.
When the opportunity came knocking at her door for volunteering at the clinic, she was quick to answer.
During the mammogram clinics, Smart educates women about breast cancer prevention and shows them how to perform self-examinations, which help them identify where and what a breast lump would feel like.
The women are then screened by Smart, and should a lump be detected, they are referred to Metroplex Hospital for a mammogram.
"If there is a clinical finding, the patient will be referred to Scott & White for further procedures," Smart said.
There is a possibility, however, that the mammogram will not detect the mass. If Smart feels it is necessary, the patient will have an ultrasound.
"Mammograms will give a false negative 10 to 15 percent of the time," Smart said. "That leaves a window of patients that will have a test positive. That's why self-examinations are so important."
One piece of advice Smart would give to women during National Breast Cancer Awareness Month is: "Check your puppies once a month."
Contact Rose Posival at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (254) 501-7469