For Hinova and Other Survivors, Mammograms Matter

To Dr. Elise Berman at Fairfax Radiology Centers, Milka Hinova is the perfect patient. Not because she is now cancer free, after beating breast cancer in 2019. Not because she sometimes brings Berman flowers and chocolate to express her gratitude for the doctor’s care and skill in detecting her illness. But because she is assiduous about undergoing her annual mammogram—something recommended for all women over 40 years old—after her mother died of the illness.

According to the CDC, breast cancer is the second most common form of cancer in women in the U.S., as one of every eight women will develop the disease.

Fairfax Radiology Centers, which opened a new state-of-the-art center in Lansdowne last year, partners with Inova Health System, and has 18 radiologists on staff, including Berman, who only do breast imaging.

And, Berman said, they’re good at it. Berman’s keen eye came might just have saved Hinova’s life. In the early stages, cancerous tissue can appear on a mammogram as a tiny grain of salt, making the illness challenging, if not impossible, to detect.

Berman said FRC‘s positive detection rates exceed the national and regional benchmarks for breast cancer imaging.

“When you only read breast imaging, you get really good at it,” she said.

Having annual benchmarks to compare imaging helped the doctor noticed Hinova’s tiny tumor, which otherwise could have been overlooked, or chalked up to typically changing breast composition through weight loss or gain.

“The whole goal of the mammogram is to find breast cancer early before you feel it, before there’s any symptoms so the treatment is easier,” Berman said. 

Hinova, she said, is a case in point.

Hinova’s cancer was confirmed after a needle biopsy, and removed by a lumpectomy, a procedure that moves a portion of the breast tissue, as opposed to the entire breast. She was also able to avoid chemotherapy.

“I was terrified,” Hinova said of learning she had breast cancer. 

Hinova is quick to point out that she’s now healthy, and can do anything that younger people can. She runs around with her grandchildren. She cooks. She gardens. The treatment, she said, was relatively mild, so, she hardly skipped a beat.

“If the cancer sits around for too long, it gets aggressive. It goes to the lymph nodes, the arms, everywhere. … The longer it sits around the more aggressive it gets and then the more aggressive the treatment will be,” Berman said.

While it is recommended that people with breasts get mammograms once a year, Berman said what hold some people back is fear of the process.

“It really is not so bad,” Hinova said, waving it off with a laugh. “You go and you get a pinch, and you’re done. That bad part is not going and then you get sick.”

Mammograms at FRC take less than a minute. With diagnostic imaging, results are even given on the same day.

Berman said that women who are apprehensive about the testing should let her staff know, and her team will work to address their fears and provide a supportive experience.

Aside from fears about pain, Berman said women are also reluctant to get mammograms because of radiation exposure. But, she said, the radiation from a single mammogram is equal to experiencing just seven weeks of atmospheric radiation, the same radiation people experience daily.

To learn more about Dr. Berman and FRC, go to:

One thought on “For Hinova and Other Survivors, Mammograms Matter

  • 2021-10-06 at 10:40 am

    Milka Hinova is a valiant lady. Kudos to hear. Reading about breast cancer has a personal impact, as I lost a very close relative to the disease. At yesterday’s special school-board meeting, it was inspiring to hear Katrece Nolen recount her odyssey with inflammatory breast cancer. She came through it a better person. Thank you Loudoun Now for running this important story.

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