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story.lead_photo.caption Breast cancer survivor Rita Koller, at The Greater Hot Springs Chamber of Commerce on Friday, stresses the importance of regular checkups. - Photo by Richard Rasmussen of The Sentinel-Record

EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the one in a continuing series of articles focused on breast cancer that will be published during October as part of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Cassidy Kendall

The Sentinel-Record

With little family history of the disease, but maintaining regular mammograms, local resident Rita Koller is now a breast cancer survivor of 29 years, after being diagnosed at the age of 41 in 1991.

"I went for a regular mammogram and they detected something on my chest wall, so from there ... they did a biopsy, and once they did the biopsy they sent that off," Koller said. "And mine was so minute that they had to sent to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., for them to diagnose it, and so it came back and I was diagnosed with breast cancer.

"From there, I went through, there were two oncologists at that time, and I went to Dr. Tim Webb and I had treatments from September to December."

By the end of her treatment, Koller was cancer free.

"Regular appointments and mammograms are very very important because they detect little small cancerous tumors and go from there," she said.

Now, even as a survivor of 29 years, Koller said she appreciates every moment in every day.

According to the American Cancer Society's website, it is estimated that in 2020 alone, about 276,480 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed; about 48,530 new cases of carcinoma in situ -- the earliest form of breast cancer -- will be diagnosed; and about 42,170 women will die from breast cancer.

The website also said breast cancer is the most common cancer in American women, except for skin cancers.

"Currently," it said, "the average risk of a woman in the United States developing breast cancer sometime in her life is about 13%. This means there is a 1 in 8 chance she will develop breast cancer. This also means there is a seven in eight chance she will never have the disease."

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