Hilda Gray: A Mammogram Found Her Breast Cancer

Now she encourages others to have their annual exams

This article appeared in our Spring 2013 Update publication.

radiologist Dr. Scott Smith

Radiologist Dr. Scott Smith performed Hilda’s biopsy and shared her diagnosis with her extended family.

Hilda Gray is a strong proponent of mammograms. The South Royalton resident has had one every year at her community hospital, Gifford Medical Center.

Last year was the first time this active grandmother got some unsettling news, however.

A small lesion in her left breast was found and merited further study. Gifford Patient Care Navigator Brittany Kelton scheduled all of Hilda’s follow-up care and was at her side during each appointment.

A diagnostic mammogram and ultrasound were performed and then an ultrasound-guided biopsy was done right in the Radiology Department.

At first, Hilda didn’t want the biopsy. “I wasn’t too thrilled about that,” she says. Her family, however, was insistent. “‘Momma, you’re going to have the biopsy and that is all there is to it,’” Hilda recalls one of her daughters saying.

On the day radiologist Dr. Scott Smith delivered the news that the small mass was indeed breast cancer, three of Hilda’s children and her husband, Robert Gray Sr., were at her side.

General surgeon Dr. Maury Smith

General surgeon Dr. Maury Smith removed Hilda’s cancer.

Dr. Smith “took the whole family in the office and explained to everybody. He didn’t try to hurry you out. He wanted to make sure all of our questions were answered,” Robert recalls.

A lumpectomy, surgery to remove the mass, was the next step. This time, Hilda was fearless. “If its something that’s got to be done, it’s got to be done,” she recalls saying at the time.

She also had every confidence in the general surgeon who would operate – Dr. Maury Smith. “To Dr. Smith, you are a person, not just a patient,” says Robert.

This time with Robert, all four of her children and their spouses with her, Hilda returned to Gifford last fall for surgery to remove the cancer. A follow-up mammogram earlier this year found no additional lesions, says a happy, cancer-free Hilda.

“I feel like the hospital did wonderful by me,” she says, encouraging others to have their annual mammograms.

“Just do it,” she says. “If I hadn’t gone, I would never have known it was there. I really think it’s something women should do every year.”

Gifford Receives $35,000 Grant from Avon Breast Health Outreach Program

Randolph hospital is state’s only BHOP grant recipient for 11 years running

Cheryl Manns

Cheryl Manns travels the state talking to women about the importance of early detection of breast cancer through clinical breast exams and mammograms. Her work is funded by the Avon Foundation Breast Health Outreach Program.

RANDOLPH – Gifford Medical Center has been awarded a $35,000 grant from the Avon Breast Health Outreach Program to increase awareness of the life-saving benefits of early detection of breast cancer.

The Avon Breast Health Outreach Program (BHOP) supports community-based, non-profit breast health programs across the country and is part of the Avon Foundation for Women, the largest corporate philanthropy dedicated to women’s causes globally.

This is the 11th consecutive year that Gifford’s Breast Health Program has received funding from the Foundation, resulting in a more than $415,000 investment regionally to increase awareness of the life-saving benefits of mammograms and clinical breast exams.

The only Vermont recipient, Gifford was selected as one of 120 grantees nationwide. Organizations like Gifford are chosen based on their ability to effectively reach women, particularly minority, low-income, and older women, who are often medically underserved.

Through the grant, Gifford Breast Care Coordinator Cheryl Manns travels the state speaking to women where they live, work, and socialize about the life-saving benefits of early detection of breast cancer and sharing information on resources like Ladies First.

Since Gifford received its first grant in 2002, it has provided more than 4,500 mammograms and nearly 3,500 clinical breast exams through the program, and referred countless others to hospitals in their region of the state for care. In 2011 alone, Gifford breast care personnel spoke to more than 5,000 Vermonters in communities near and far about having annual mammograms after age 40, annual clinical breast exams, and doing self-breast exams so women know what is normal for them.

Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer in women in the United States and in Vermont. It’s also the nation’s leading single cause of death overall in women between the ages of 40 and 55.

According to the Vermont Department of Health, about 473 breast cancer cases are diagnosed among Vermont women each year. About 92 people each year die from the disease. Nationwide, there is a new diagnosis every three minutes and a death from breast cancer every 14 minutes.

While advances have been made in prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and cure, early detection still affords the best opportunity for successful treatment. According to the Avon Foundation, programs such as Gifford’s help ensure that all women have access to early detection information and options, even poor and medically underserved women.

Pam Caron serves as director of ancillary services at Gifford and oversees the grant.

“I am so pleased and humbled that we have been given the Avon Foundation grant again this year. The importance of spreading the information about early detection of breast cancer to our communities is a passion our entire team of breast care personnel shares. I am very proud of the work they do, and the care and compassion they show to our patients is phenomenal. The Avon grant supports our efforts, and I look forward to continuing the mission in 2012,” Caron said.

Since 1993, the Avon Foundation has awarded more than 1,550 grants to community-based breast health programs across the United States. These programs are dedicated to educating underserved women about breast cancer and linking them to early detection screening services.

The Avon Foundation for Women and Breast Cancer Crusade

The Avon Foundation for Women, an accredited 501(c)(3) public charity, was founded in 1955 to improve the lives of women and today is the world’s largest corporate-affiliated philanthropy focused on issues that matter most to women. The Avon Breast Cancer Crusade, which observes its 20th anniversary in 2012, has placed Avon at the forefront of the fight against breast cancer; today, Avon is the leading corporate supporter of the cause globally. In the 20 years since the Crusade’s launch, Avon breast cancer programs in 58 countries have donated more than $740 million for research and advancing access to care, regardless of a person’s ability to pay. Avon raises funds for the Crusade through the sale of Avon “Pink Ribbon” products, and through events and walks, such as the U.S. Avon Walk for Breast Cancer series, which is the Foundation’s largest fund-raising source.

The Avon Breast Health Outreach Program

The Avon Breast Health Outreach Program is administered by Cicatelli Associates Inc. to support community-based, non-profit breast health programs across the country. The Fund’s National Advisory Board selected the Breast Health Program at Gifford Medical Center as one of 120 new grant recipients nationwide in the 2012 cycle of Avon Breast Health Outreach Program grants. These organizations were chosen based on their ability to effectively reach women, particularly minority, low-income, and older women, who are often medically underserved.

For More Information

For more information on breast care at Gifford or to have Breast Care Coordinator Cheryl Manns visit your organization, call her at (802) 728-2317. For more information about breast cancer, contact the American Cancer Society at 1-800-ACS-2345 or www.cancer.org, or the National Cancer Institute at 1-800-4-CANCER or www.cancer.gov.

To learn more about the Avon Foundation for Women, call 1-866-505-AVON or visit www.avonfoundation.org, where you can access free printable Breast Health Resource Guides in English and Spanish. For information or to register or support Avon Walk for Breast Cancer events, visit www.avonwalk.org or call 1-888-540-WALK.

Gifford's Breast Care Coordinator Cheryl Manns

Breast Care Coordinator Cheryl Manns poses with Gifford Medical Center’s stereotactic breast biopsy equipment, including special comfort padding. Stereotactic breast biopsies are relatively new to Gifford and use image guidance to exactly pinpoint and remove a sample of suspicious tissue to be tested for cancer.