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Health Team

Doctor, daughter, cheerleader sees all angles of breast cancer fight

Posted May 1, 2021 6:06 a.m. EDT
Updated May 1, 2021 11:12 a.m. EDT

On the morning marking 25 years of the Komen Triangle Race for the Cure, Duke Health oncologist Dr. Sarah Sammons shares her view of the fight against breast cancer from every angle.

"What I remember most from that time as a child was her resilience and how honest she was with us," Sammons said of her mother's breast cancer battle.

"(She) went through it all – the surgery, the chemotherapy, the radiation," Sammons recalls.

By the time little Sarah was 7, she had a dream to help those like her mother.

"I actually said that I was going to be a breast oncologist from the time that I was 7, and then it actually happened, which seems impossible," she said.

At Duke Cancer Institute, Sammons splits her time between seeing patients and the research that could save their lives, because there is still no cure.

"I'm still hopeful that will happen," she said. "It's an incredible feat. Breast cancer is not one disease. It's many different diseases. So it's going to take a lot of research and a lot of funding."

That's where the Susan G. Komen Triangle Race for the Cure comes in.

Over 25 years, participants have raised tens of millions of dollars to fund local clinical trials and screenings for early detection.

Until there is a cure, those screenings are the best prevention metric, but mammograms are down during the pandemic. That worries Sammons.

"That actually led to a 50% percent decline for a matter of a couple of months of detection of breast cancer in the United States, which is a little bit scary. We're making up for that now," she said.

While detecting breast cancer at its earliest stages is the best treatment, Sammons says new immunology research on the horizon, funded in part with Komen dollars, is exciting.

Few people see the disease like Sammons. She is a child of a survivor, a doctor and a scientist. She is also a cheerleader.

"For a lot of women facing breast cancer, hope is critical, and hope is emotional," she said. "That's why I do what I do everyday and why I support this race."

Sammons is the medical chairwoman of the 2021 Triangle Race for the Cure.

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