By Frances Wang

MIAMI (CBSMiami) — October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. It is the most common type of cancer in women, and the second most common overall behind lung cancer.

A longtime South Florida nurse received a breast cancer diagnosis earlier this year, and she says the coronavirus pandemic compounded her stress.

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“It’s different being on the other side,” said Rebecca Karfeld. She’s been a nurse for about 30 years and says she’s seen everything along the way.

Breast cancer survivor Rebecca Karfeld. (Rebecca Karfeld)

“I love giving back and my patients have been amazing. I’ve learned a lot from them throughout the years,” said Karfeld.

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Working in critical care and the recovery room, Karfeld was there to comfort her patients and their families, but earlier this year, during her annual mammogram, she had her own medical scare.

She was diagnosed with Stage 1 breast cancer and she was alone for treatment because of COVID-19 restrictions.

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“Most people, when you have cancer, you have someone there with you, a loved one to go through it,” she said. “Fear was probably my biggest emotion.”

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Her doctor says he recommends annual screenings starting at age 40.

For Karfeld, who didn’t show symptoms, early detection from her mammogram might have saved her.

He says awareness is important and education is key.

“I think there’s also a misconception that mammography is extremely painful,” said Dr. Ihor Pidhorecky, Surgical Oncologist Specialist at Westside Regional Medical Center. “There’s a misconception that there’s excessive radiation therapy that’s given to patients and of course there’s a misconception that you really only need to get mammogram when you feel something and all of those things I just mentioned are not accurate.”

Although October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the awareness and battle should continue all year long.

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Frances Wang