Martha’s Story: The Importance of Cancer Screening

December 10, 2021

In June 2020, Martha Repp, a lead consultant for Roche Diagnostics IT, was preparing to go on a much-needed vacation when she received the annual reminder from the Roche wellness center about the St. Vincent mobile mammography van coming to campus to do mammography screenings. Martha and some close colleagues of hers had always been diligent about taking advantage of the mammography van each summer. In fact, they would each rush to be the first to send out the communication to one another as a reminder.

But this time was different. Martha, like many of us, was working from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and she wasn’t sure if she was comfortable going back on campus – even to get an important cancer screening. However, three days before she was to leave on her vacation, Martha felt the urge to call and see if there were any appointments left and the scheduler was able to fit her in before the mobile mammography van left.

“I’ve gone to get the mobile mammogram scan for years,” she said. “In June 2020, the mobile van was on campus, and I was hesitant due to COVID, but I decided to go, which saved my life.”

Because her breast cancer was caught so early through screening, her doctor initially thought she would just need surgery and radiation, but her pathology told a different story – she had an aggressive form of breast cancer, called HER2 positive, that would require chemotherapy.

Martha and her family were shocked by her diagnosis because she’d had no symptoms to indicate anything was wrong. “I’ve always been the healthy one, I never get sick,” she said. “Until this, I’d never called in sick for work in the 30-plus years I’ve been at Roche.” In fact, one of her favorite pastimes has been ziplining with her grandchildren.

This is a journey she never expected, including chemo, surgery and radiation. Still, she remains grateful that, due to her previous baseline screenings over the years, the cancer was able to be caught early for successful treatment.

“I tell everyone I know to get their screenings. I had zero symptoms and if I had not gotten my mammogram when I did, I’m not sure how this would have worked out. But because I caught it early, I’m going to be OK.”

And best of all, she is now back to ziplining with her grandkids.

This week is Cancer Screen Week, a public health initiative founded by Genentech, the American Cancer Society, Stand Up To Cancer and Optum to increase awareness of the benefits of screening for early detection of certain cancers. This year, we (Roche Diagnostics) are participating in #CancerScreenWeek to help raise awareness of the potentially lifesaving benefits of cancer screening in coordination with our Return to Screening Partnership with the American Cancer Society.

According to the American Cancer Society, approximately 608,570 Americans are expected to die from cancer in 2021. Regular screening can help find certain cancers early, when they are most likely to be treated successfully. Learn what screening tests ACS recommends and when you should have them, and talk to a healthcare professional about the best screening plan for you. Learn more at


Martha Repp