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'They found my cancer on accident': Professor credits mammogram with saving her life

Posted at 2:37 PM, Oct 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-14 19:46:12-04

CENTRAL TEXAS — Early detection is key when it comes to breast cancer. One Central Texas woman says a mammogram led to the discovery of her rare invasive cancer.

The day that changed her life started in her biology classroom at A&M Central Texas.

Dr. Laura Weiser-Erlandson said, "It was the first day of Breast Cancer Awareness Month 2019.”

The day took a bit of an ironic twist.

“The nurse called me and said you have cancer. What they originally brought me in for was nothing it was just a cyst and so they found my cancer on accident," Erlandson said.

After visiting her doctor for her annual mammogram, she was asked to come in for extra scans. After dozens of additional scans, ultrasounds, and a biopsy Dr. Erlandson was diagnosed with a rare invasive lobular carcinoma, in its early stage.

Courtesy: Dr. Laura Weiser-Erlandson

Erlandson said, “The first thing I did was thank God for early detection, they found it early. Without that mammogram I would never, I would never have known, and I might be dead. I mean you never know.”

Erlanson's doctor Sripriya Santhanam a Hematologic Oncologist at Baylor Scott and White said breast cancer is treatable if found in the beginning stages.

Santhanam said, “Mammography has actually reduced mortality in breast cancers by 40%. Globally, every 19 seconds, a woman's diagnosed with breast cancer. In the past, what, 25-30 years, the incidence rates for breast cancer have gone up by 30% in our in the developed world. So, it is just an epidemic of humongous proportions."

Dr. Santhanam said she recommends women ages 45 and 54 get a mammogram every year.

"We have so much to offer to cure these early-stage patients, so they never have to go through the mental and physical trauma of dealing with more of an incurable disease that at that point," said Dr. Santhanam.

Courtesy: Dr. Laura Weiser-Erlandson

Erlandson's treatment started almost immediately; her double mastectomy, chemotherapy, and radiation. Dr. Erlanson working as a professor and department head of the Department of Science and Mathematics, and the lead faculty of Biology at A&M Central Texas through it all. Her endless dedication to her students is something her colleagues commend her for.

Carolyn Thomas, who worked with the universities office of registrar said, “When this disease happened, she didn’t put her life on hold she continue to move forward and continue to make a difference in the lives of her students.”

Erlandson's warrior spirit shining throughout her whole journey.

"You have to stay positive you have to fight. Attitude is 90% of the battle," Erlandson said.

“To see someone who doesn’t give up who perseveres and always put students first thank you, Dr. Erlanson," Thomas said.

She's now in remission, hoping her story can inspire women to prioritize their health.

Courtesy: Dr. Laura Weiser-Erlandson

Dr. Erlandson said, “You need to get those mammograms and even though it didn’t necessarily find my cancer it’s a reason it was found.”

Erlanson says although her cancer is gone, she will still have to be monitored for the rest of her life. The medication she's taking to combat cancer can cause osteoporosis.