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3 sisters, 3 breast cancer battles: Roanoke woman stresses importance of early detection

After losing her sister, Denise Ellis is sharing her story to help others

ROANOKE, Va. – This Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a Roanoke woman is sharing her story about the critical importance of early detection.

10 News first introduced you to Denise Ellis in April right after her friends surprised her with a drive-by good luck parade before her breast cancer surgery.

At the time, her message was focused on support but now it’s focused on something else that saved her life.

“I’m very blessed that I was able to catch things early so that my journey is a lot different than it would’ve been had I not had my mammogram," Ellis said.

Ellis knows how different that journey could have been because she’s seen it firsthand. Both of her sisters also battled breast cancer. The first to be diagnosed did not survive.

“Unfortunately my sister was not able to catch it early but I have to say that her journey influenced my decision making and my sister’s as well,” Ellis said.

From their loss came a lesson so they made annual screening a priority.

“It can be life-saving,” said Dr. Catherine Hagan-Aylor, advanced practice nurse at Carilion. “We can find early breast cancers with a screening mammogram way before we can feel them.”

Ellis is living proof of that. She’s now on the road to recovery after an aggressive plan to treat her stage one diagnosis and sharing what she’s learned to help others.

“I think that God puts you through things in your life for a reason and I believe that one of the reasons is for me to be able to speak about this, to be blessed enough to have a different outcome from my sister but it’s probably because of her that I have,” Ellis said.

Health experts recommend women get annual mammograms starting at age 40.


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