First mammogram leads to an unexpected diagnosis

General Wellness
Patient Story

At age 40, the recommended age to begin annual screenings according to the American Cancer Society, Barbara decided to take advantage of the free mammograms being offered by her company and scheduled her first exam at The Holloway Breast Health Center at Paoli Hospital. “I had a prescription for a mammogram but kept putting it off until this opportunity,” the mother of four explains. “My physician had recently done a breast exam as part of my yearly check-up and everything was fine.”

When she was called back due to an area of concern, her anxiety quickly grew. She was given a breast ultrasound and then escorted to a private conference room. “When they didn’t say ‘bye, see you next year,’ I knew something was up,” recalls Barbara.

The radiologist reported an “area of concern” and referred her to Paoli Hospital breast surgeon Timothy Fox, MD, for further testing. “Sitting there, crying and scared of the unknown the radiologist, a mammography technologist, and Meghan, the nurse navigator, helped me through the shock. Their compassion and support was overwhelming.”

“Having an abnormal mammogram can be frightening, but the staff at the Breast Health Center act quickly to make sure the next steps are simplified and expedited so that a woman receives their diagnosis and treatment plan in a timely fashion,” says Meghan Walker, RN, MSN, breast care nurse navigator, at the Center.

Meghan is a specially trained nurse with a strong clinical background in oncologic care who provides valuable personal assistance, education, and emotional support to ensure patients, and their families, know all of the options and understand exactly what to expect in order to make informed decisions. If breast cancer is diagnosed, she helps to coordinate all aspects of care including appointments with specialists.

“The words ‘you have breast cancer’ can change a woman forever. I’m there to help provide peace of mind by guiding each person through treatment, recovery, and beyond,” Meghan adds.

Barbara was seen by Dr. Fox within two days where a needle biopsy confirmed the cancer diagnosis. Crying, Barbara apologized to her husband who was by her side. “I was sorry for what I was putting him and our children through and for the fact that I might die.”

Within two weeks, Barbara had a lumpectomy and several lymph nodes removed and analyzed. The results showed the tissue and surrounding area was free of cancer. A year later, she has completed treatment at Paoli’s Cancer Center and need only return to the Breast Health Center every six months for regular screening.

Now 41, Barbara hopes to encourage others that may be fearful of mammography. As someone with no family history of any type of cancer and no preexisting risk factors, she realizes how valuable these exams can be.

As Breast Health Center Medical Director and breast surgeon Dr. Robert Fried explains, “anyone who hesitates to get a mammogram should realize that it’s much easier going through the exam than it is going through breast cancer.”

Barbara couldn’t agree more.  “I am forever grateful for the care I received at the Breast Health Center and the Cancer Center. They truly made a very scary situation less scary,” Barbara says. “I’m at peace today and loving my life because of them. They showed me that cancer does not equal death, instead it’s about living.”

As the first of its kind in Chester County, the Holloway Breast Health Center at Paoli Hospital is committed to providing women with all the necessary tools to maintain good breast health. With a focus on education, screening, and early detection, the Center’s goal is to stop breast cancer before it has a chance to affect a person’s life. Yet, throughout the Center, a woman will find a positive, encouraging emphasis on wellness, not just disease.

“Not surprisingly, we are all passionate about what we do and are huge proponents of early detection,” explains Dr. Fried, whose extensive background and dedication has made him is one of the region's foremost breast health specialists. “We encourage every woman to take charge of their breast health by learning their risk factors, doing regular self exams, and participating in regular screenings when referred by their physicians.”

According to Dr. Fried, women who have their cancer diagnosed early have the best outcomes, and while monthly physical self-examinations are very helpful, mammography can show changes in the breast up to two years before a woman or physician can feel these changes.

The Holloway Breast Health Center is accredited by the American College of Radiology (ACR), is certified by the National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers (NAPBC) and has earned The Breast Imaging Center of Excellence (BICOE) designation. In addition to its main location at Paoli Hospital, breast health services, including digital mammography, are also offered at Main Line Health Collegeville and Main Line Health Exton.

For more information or to schedule an appointment, call 484.565.1414.