Sage Screening led to early detection, likely saved the life of Eagle Bend woman.
Two years ago Gladys Judes of Eagle Bend received a card in the mail. She almost ignored it. The card was a reminder from the Sage Screening Program; it was time for a mammogram. Four years before that, Gladys and her husband Dale, who ran a dairy farm for 20 years, moved from Belgrade to Eagle Bend. They hadn’t yet found a new doctor to oversee their health care. Gladys, the Lutheran Social Services senior dining manager at the Eagle Bend Senior Center, hadn’t had a mammogram in that time. The card from Sage prompted her to action and it saved her life. The Sage Screening Program is a family of programs run by the Minnesota Department of Health to help prevent disease and keep Minnesotans healthy. These programs encourage healthy behaviors by providing free screenings for breast, cervical and colorectal cancer, as well as free services to improve cardiovascular health and to quit smoking. Sage is a breast and cervical cancer screening program, SagePlus is a heart-health program for women, and Sage Scopes is a free colorectal cancer screening program for eligible men and women. Each program has eligibility guidelines and participants must register in the program for follow-up care and ongoing information. The Sage breast and cervical cancer program has the following basic eligibility requirements: age 40 or older, have no insurance or are underinsured, income within the program’s guidelines. Gladys called the 800 number on the reminder card. It put her in touch with the Department of Health. “They asked where I wanted to go and made the appointment in Eagle Bend with Dr. Rasmussen,” she said. “I had the basic check-up there along with a breast exam.” Nothing was noted on the breast exam, but when the mammogram, which was done in Long Prairie, showed a suspicious spot, Gladys was scheduled for a second mammogram followed by an ultrasound and then a biopsy. The biopsy, done in St. Cloud, revealed stage 1 A breast cancer, an early stage of the disease in which the tumor measures up to two centimeters with no lymph node involvement. “They were very specific with the diagnosis. If you get ‘this’ kind of cancer you do ‘this,’ step by step,” said Gladys, impressed by how much modern medicine knows about the necessary treatment for specific kinds of cancer. She had a lumpectomy, radiation by way of insertion of tiny radioactive “seeds” in the cancer site twice a day for five days, followed by six chemotherapy treatments, one every three weeks for 18 weeks. “We questioned whether to do the chemo but didn’t want to miss anything,” she said. Further, a simple test of the breast cancer cells indicated they were the type that produced an abnormal amount of human epidermal growth factor (HER2). Gladys received a course of medication called Herceptin to reduce the chance of recurrence. The side effects were manageable for Gladys. “I was tired but not seriously sick, with the help of anti-nausea medication.” She lost her hair. “It came back snow white and curly. I guess the treatment is strong enough to curl your hair,” she laughed. Gladys finished her course of treatment in December. She said there was no history of breast cancer in her family but her sister had been diagnosed and treated for colon cancer that summer. In March, the two women, along with two other sisters, went on a cruise to the Bahamas. “It was only four days,” she said, but of obvious benefit in celebrating what they had overcome. “It was a blessing to have gotten the card in the mail,” Gladys said. Call 1-888-6HEALTH (1-888-643-2584) to determine eligibility and schedule an appointment. Also visit www.health.state.mn.us and put “Sage” in the search box.