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Breast cancer survivors shed light on importance of getting screened following Kelly Preston’s death

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- The death of Kelly Preston is being felt in the Milwaukee area. Breast cancer survivors say it’s heartbreaking, and want women to remember to put their health first. 

Susan G. Komen Wisconsin says 5,000 women in the state will be diagnosed with breast cancer, and of those women, more than 700 a year will die from the disease. 

“I think what it means to the forefront is no one is immune to this disease, wealth, status, it doesn’t matter, women are dying,” said Nikki Panico, Executive Director of Susan G. Komen Wisconsin.

News of Preston’s death left area breast cancer survivors saddened and shocked. They say it’s a reminder of their battle and their struggle to come out on the other side.

“For me when I woke up to that news, it was a complete shock,” said breast cancer survivor, Tiffany Johnson.

“My heart breaks,” said Panico. “I immediately go back to my own mother and my aunt’s death to breast cancer and it’s a constant reminder that we have a lot of work to do because women are still dying every day of this disease.”

Panico says her journey with breast cancer motivated her to make a difference in the lives of other women who are still in the fight.

“It was a really emotional journey, but I decided I can be a part of the solution and have been with Susan G. Komen Wisconsin for ten years now,” Panico added. 

Panico says there was a brief hold on non-emergency medical testing during the pandemic, but wants women to know mammograms have opened up and encourage women to go in.

“We don’t want women to stop screening because of COVID-19. It is for now, the best test there is to diagnose,” said Panico.

“The time to start screening depends on what an individual’s risk is, such as family history of breast cancer,” added Dr. Kari Wisinski, an oncologist at the UW Carbone Cancer Center.

Tiffany Johnson, who was diagnosed with breast cancer at 29 years old, says her fight wasn’t easy.

“I did a double mastectomy, I did a couple rounds of chemo, radiation, it was very tough mentally and physically, not only for me but for my whole entire family,” said Johnson.

Johnson wants women with breast cancer to keep fighting and never give up hope.

“Just know that even though it’s very tough, we’re capable of getting through it,” Johnson said.

“There’s more we can do and we need to save lives,” Panico said.

Susan G. Komen Wisconsin does have a fund to pay for mammograms, biopsies and ultrasounds for women who have lost their job or insurance coverage. For more information on the Susan G. Komen Wisconsin Breast Cancer Assistance Fund, click here.

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