Published on July 15, 2013

Taking charge of breast cancer

Early detection is key to conquering breast cancer.

Jean VinsonThe card arrived at Jean Vinson’s house as it does every year, reminding her it was time to schedule her annual mammogram at Mercy Philadelphia. And like every year, Jean promptly picked up the phone and made her appointment.

But this year the results of her mammogram showed something suspicious.

“You don’t want to think you might have cancer, but I knew I needed to find out and do whatever was needed to be done,” recalls Jean. “Even though I live in Mt. Airy, I’ve been going to Mercy Philadelphia for years. I just knew that was the place I needed to be.”

Becoming part of the team

Jean met first with Archit Naik, MD, a fellowship-trained breast surgeon at Mercy Philadelphia, to discuss the next steps. “I was scared, which is to be expected, but as soon as Dr. Naik introduced himself and explained my particular situation, I relaxed. I was confident I was in good hands,” she says.

That same day at the hospital, Jean also met with medical oncologist Jean Marie Kane, DO, and radiation oncologist Richard Stabile, MD. The three physicians and a nurse navigator, a registered nurse with specialized training in cancer care, formed a multi-disciplinary team that would confer with each other—and with Jean—throughout her treatment and follow-up.

“The patient is an important part of the team,” says Dr. Kane. “When a patient knows what the plan is and is able to quickly get answers to all her questions, it relieves a lot of anxiety.”

The plan takes shape

The comprehensive treatment plan for Jean started with surgery to remove the malignant lump found in her breast, which turned out to be extremely small. “The tumor had not spread to nearby healthy tissue, and the fact that it was so localized is a predictor of an excellent outcome,” explains Dr. Naik.

Thirty sessions of radiation to the affected breast followed. “I didn’t know what to expect from radiation,” says Jean, “but Dr. Stabile took me step by step through the process and answered all my questions. He was wonderful.”
Because Jean was so conscientious about getting yearly mammograms, her tumor was detected at a very early stage, and she did not require chemotherapy. Dr. Kane notes that if Jean had waited, her treatment would likely have been much more involved.

Dr. Kane also prescribed tamoxifen for Jean to take once a day to block the growth of any possible tumor cells.

“Dr. Kane explained how tamoxifen works, why she prescribed it and what the side effects could be,” says Jean. “At each office visit, she’s very thorough and answers any questions I might have. It helps put my mind at ease.”

Like family

Wife, mother, grandmother and caregiver, Jean today has taken on a new role—mammogram advocate.

“Getting a mammogram every year is such an important thing to do,” she says. “I encourage my friends and neighbors and tell them that I’m happy to go with them.”

Jean is also happy to tell people about Mercy Philadelphia. “Everyone there, from the doctors and nurses to the people I pass in the hall, have been just wonderful. To me, they’re all like family.”