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The sooner, The Better

Published in the Spring 2013 Issue of Join Us Magazine.

Tracy Grooms
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,” says 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 next had three months of chemotherapy followed by six weeks of radiation, completed in December. She is currently having 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,” explains Dr.Broadstone-Gaeke.

Tracy’s Herceptin treatments are being 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’s glad for the location.

Patient-centered care

“Atrium’s Infusion Center is designed with the patient in mind, with each person having their own room,” Tracy says. “I get work done on my laptop, 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 care about the patients,” she says with conviction. “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 had never had any major illness or surgery so hearing I had cancer was hard to take,” she says. “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.”

 Dr. Broadstone Gaeke
Mary Ellen Broadstone-Gaeke, MD
Medical Oncologist
“Self-exams are an important part of breast health, that’s for sure, but mammograms can detect abnormalities too small to feel,” says Dr. Broadstone-Gaeke. “It’s simple: the earlier the cancer is found, the more curable it is.”

Keeping up with mammograms

Tracy Grooms’ very first mammogram led to the discovery of breast cancer. But Oncologist 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 reports.

To learn more about mammograms, including when you should have one, how to prepare and what to expect, visit www.AtriumMedCenter.org/mammo.

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