Tracy Grooms learned first-hand how important mammograms are in detecting breast cancer early.
Tracy Grooms had been healthy her entire life. But, because her friend, Tammy Harmon, had passed away from breast cancer a few years ago, Tracy played it smart. She followed medical guidelines and went for her first mammogram when she turned 40.
That very first mammogram in June 2012 showed that something wasn’t right. A follow-up mammogram and then a biopsy confirmed the diagnosis that Tracy had breast cancer.
“My dad also passed away from cancer in his 40s, so the news was a shock,” said Tracy, who lives in Trenton with her husband, Dave, and their two children, 17-year old Emily, and 8-year old Braydon. “But the best way to fight cancer is to catch it early. I had that going for me.”
Early Diagnosis Improves Outcomes
Tracy’s cancer was initially thought to be Stage 0, but after a lumpectomy was performed in July, the pathology report bumped the cancer to Stage 1. A second surgery was needed in August.
Under the direction of medical oncologist Mary Ellen Broadstone-Gaeke, MD., Tracy had three months of chemotherapy, followed by six weeks of radiation completed. She also had Herceptin treatments, a targeted therapy for breast cancer patients like Tracy whose tumor cells express too much of a protein called HER2/neu.
“Herceptin treatments have been shown to help prevent the reoccurrence of cancer for certain patients,” said Dr. Broadstone-Gaeke.
Tracy’s Herceptin treatments were given once every three weeks for a year at the Infusion and Treatment Center in the Compton Center on Atrium’s campus. It’s the same place she had chemotherapy and she appreciated the convenient location.
“Atrium’s Infusion Center is designed with the patient in mind. Each person has their own room,” Tracy said. “I get work done on my laptop while sitting in the recliner. There’s also a television and a phone.”
But, what Tracy appreciates most about the Infusion Center goes beyond comfort and looks. “The staff at Atrium genuinely cares about the patients,” she said. “They are so nice. They don’t leave you sitting by yourself but check on you often. I may have privacy but I don’t feel alone.”
Tracy is cautious but optimistic about her future. “I never had any major illness or surgery, so hearing I had cancer was hard to take,” she said. “I’m so grateful that I went for a mammogram when I did and could start right in fighting the disease. I learned first-hand how important mammograms are.”
“Self-exams are an important part of breast health, that’s for sure, but mammograms can detect abnormalities too small to feel,” said Dr. Broadstone-Gaeke. “It’s simple: the earlier the cancer is found, the more curable it is.”
Keeping Up with Mammograms
Dr. Mary Ellen Broadstone-Gaeke reminds women that continuing to get mammograms past the initial exam at age 40 is crucial.
“Generally speaking, older women are more likely to get breast cancer so it’s important to be faithful with self-exams and mammograms,” she said.
Learn more about mammograms, including when you should have one, how to prepare and what to expect.