Pam and Phil Thompson

Couple Credit Preventive Screenings for Catching Cancer Early

03/22/21 Cancer Care

As an RN health coach for CHI Saint Joseph Health Partners, Pam Thompson spends a lot of time encouraging proactive care for patients’ health. She makes a lot of phone calls to people, encouraging them to get their preventive screenings.

She can personally attest to the critical need for such screenings. Both Pam Thompson and her husband Phil were both diagnosed with cancer at a relatively young age, thanks to preventive screenings. Phil was diagnosed with prostate cancer at age 51 in 2014, after getting a PSA (prostate-specific antigen) test following a biometric screening.

“I had a relatively aggressive form of prostate cancer and I had no symptoms,” Phil said. “Had it not been for this screening and/or the physical my company required, I probably would not have known until it was too far along.”

Pam was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 50 in 2017, following a routine mammogram, which she has been getting since she was 40. “My breast cancer was a stage 1 and, had I not been having regular mammograms, it could have been more extensive,” she said.

Phil had surgery at the Cleveland Clinic Cancer Center, followed by radiation treatment at CHI Saint Joseph Health – Cancer Care Center with Dr. Jacqueline Matar. Pam’s journey started at the Breast Cancer Center at Saint Joseph East, and treatment followed at Saint Joseph Hospital and the CHI Saint Joseph Health – Cancer Care Center.

“We are both healthy. We keep our follow-up appointments and continue to keep up with our preventive screenings, which not only include mammograms and PSAs but yearly wellness visits,” said Pam.

Now, when Pam is talking with patients whose care is managed through CHI Saint Joseph Health Partners by virtue of their health insurance, she uses her family’s personal experience as testimonials to encourage patients to follow recommended screening guidelines.

“The PSA is so easy to have tested,” Phillip said.  He says that he encourages other men to have the test.  It is recommended to begin at age 50 for men at average risk, according to the American Cancer Society.

It’s important to know, about 75% of breast cancers occur in women who have no family history of breast cancer. These occur as a result of aging and life in general, rather than genetics.  According to America’s Health Rankings, every year 127 of every 100,000 women in Kentucky will be diagnosed with breast cancer. 

“A mammogram may not be the most comfortable test, but it really is for such a short period of time.  And the time spent and discomfort far outweigh the time that could be lost. My greatest joy is my family and this is something that I can do and encourage other women to do so that we can be around for all of the simple pleasures that family brings,” said Pam.

After their cancer experience, the Thompsons are even more focused on their health.

“I wouldn’t describe either of us as health nuts, but we try to pay attention to what we eat and stay in shape,” Phil said.  “If you have something like this happen I would say that it is easier to fight if you are healthier.”

Both Pam and Phil stress the need to think about maintaining good health, listening to your body and keeping up with preventative screenings as you get older. 

“We are perfect examples of why you should have preventive screenings done,” Pam said. “If we hadn’t been having our preventive screenings, we could have been in a completely different spot right now.”

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