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Role reversal: Doctor becomes a patient as breast cancer specialist gets first mammogram

FARGO-Sanford Health's front-and-center breast cancer doctor here got a sense last week for what her patients go through when they're screened for the disease.Dr. Shelby Terstriep, medical oncologist, recently turned 40 and had her first ever mam...

Sanford Health breast cancer doctor Shelby Terstriep undergoes a mammogram exam with technician Brittany Boom on Friday, Dec. 9, 2016, at the Edith Sanford Breast Center in downtown Fargo.David Samson / The Forum
Sanford Health breast cancer doctor Shelby Terstriep undergoes a mammogram exam with technician Brittany Boom on Friday, Dec. 9, 2016, at the Edith Sanford Breast Center in downtown Fargo.David Samson / The Forum

FARGO-Sanford Health's front-and-center breast cancer doctor here got a sense last week for what her patients go through when they're screened for the disease.

Dr. Shelby Terstriep, medical oncologist, recently turned 40 and had her first ever mammogram.

She invited cameras along to document the procedure, in hopes even more women will realize it's not scary or painful, and it just might save their life.

The decision to make her first mammogram "public" was driven by her belief that she has a community education role as a physician.

"When you have opportunities to do something in a very demonstrated way, I think that's the best education that you can get," Terstriep said.

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"If we get one person to do a mammogram because of this, it'll be worth it," she said, as a mammography technologist positioned her in front of the imaging machine at Edith Sanford Breast Center.

Terstriep said in the months leading up to her 40th birthday, she knew she needed to schedule the test, but around the same time, also began having pain in her left breast which radiated into her arm and had a "kind of itchiness" in her armpit.

She found herself wanting to delay the test, like some of her patients have done before.

"When you're a doctor and you're hearing that, you're like 'Why would they do that?' But now me being on the other side of it, I really understand that. I mean, I was scared and I didn't want to schedule it," Terstriep said.

She cast those fears aside, though, and picked a date for a 3D mammogram. Sanford has offered 3D breast imaging since 2014, but only more recently have insurance companies come on board with covering it. The technology has been found to decrease the amount of false-positive tests.

Since Terstriep had been having some pain, her mammogram would be a diagnostic one on the left breast and a screening one on the right breast. With a diagnostic exam, more images are taken and a radiologist looks at them while the patient is still there, in case further images or other tests, such as ultrasound, are needed.

Technologist Brittany Boom asked Terstriep about hormone use, age of first menstrual period and age when her first child was born-all factors that can influence a woman's risk of developing breast cancer.

Then she explained what to expect when each breast is placed between two plates in order to capture the images.

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"We do compress. Compression is very important. It's what gives us a better image, pushing that tissue," Boom said.

Terstriep said that part really wasn't that bad.

"It wasn't as painful as I thought, and the fact that they let you kind of stop it when you feel it hurting too much is nice," she said.

When the testing was finished, Terstriep met with radiologist Dr. Jay Goldenberg, who told her he didn't see anything concerning in the images-a relief to the anxious doctor/patient.

She said she's glad she had the mammogram done on schedule and that she'll be certain to do it annually. She also thinks it was a valuable experience for her as a physician, so that she can better explain mammography to her own patients in the future.

"It's always interesting to be on the other side of medicine," Terstriep said.

Related Topics: SANFORD HEALTH
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