The month of October marks breast cancer awareness month and 22News is Working For You with life-saving information.
“You have breast cancer,” are four words no woman ever wants to hear, but in the United States, one out of every eight women will hear those four words in her lifetime.
According to Dr. Elizabeth Brady, a breast cancer surgeon at Baystate Medical Center, part of that is because we’re getting better at detecting the disease.
“I think our success rates are clearly much better, part of that is earlier detection without a doubt and to a very large part it’s our treatments and the fact that we’re getting more targeted therapies,” said Dr. Brady. “We’re seeing this with many cancers but we’re definitely seeing it with breast cancer.”
New technology like 3D mammography has also lead to better detection.
“When we do 3D mammograms it’s both of those views but three different pictures in each view and it allows us to get a better visualization of the breast tissue,” said Dr. Danielle Lipoff, surgical oncologist at Baystate Medical Center. “It’s great or younger patients, it’s great for denser tissue and it has been found it decreases the number of women who get callbacks which can be very anxiety provoking. It also helps to find cancers that we wouldn’t otherwise find in dense breast tissue.”
If you have survived breast cancer than you probably know about a condition called lymphedema. The condition can happen after the removal of lymph nodes and can cause debilitating arm pain.
Now, Baystate has a new procedure that can help prevent this painful condition.
“The process is injecting a blue dye in the upper extremity that will help us visualize the lymph nodes and the vessels connected to the lymph nodes that drain the arm,” said Dr. Lipoff. “Then when we see them in surgery we can help preserve them and protect the lymphatic draining for the arm.”
Both doctors thanked 22News for continuing research, the understanding of breast cancer and how to treat it is constantly evolving.
22News spoke with two women with two different stories, both fighting the same disease.
“I found the lump myself the Friday before Christmas,” said Meggan Maloni, a breast cancer survivor. “It came out the size of an orange overnight. I had been swimming I had been running I was a triathlete.”
Both women found themselves in a position they never in a million years imagined they would be.
“I kind of knew when they did the biopsy, just the way they were handling it, that it was going to be a cancer diagnosis,” said Cindy Sheridan-Murphy. “So my sister my husband and I all went to the final biopsy results together and they found that I had quite a large tumor.”
For Cindy, this wasn’t her first time battling the disease.
“Second time, I was in a total panic, the second time I remember telling my son and he asked me thinking like the first time, he said mom is it all good? I said no this time I think we’re in some trouble,” said Sheridan-Murphy.
Both women went through extensive treatment including chemotherapy, mastectomies, and radiation. And like many breast cancer patients quickly find out, the world continued to turn as they felt like theirs had stopped.
“Reality of it starts to hit you when you lose your hair, you’re going to chemo, you have a port placed,” said Maloni told 22News. “All these things are very traumatic and you still have three little kids that you have to still parent, still continue to keep their lives as normal as you can but you know its going to change them.”
It was in those difficult moments where both women looked for help and found the Cancer House of Hope in West Springfield.
“They greeted me with open arms and I found that this was my safe haven, this is where I could cry, I could let my guard down and just be myself and I had the support and that’s really helped a lot,” said Maloni.
It was Cindy who greeted Meggan with open arms when Meggan turned for help.
“I walked in the door and they said you’re going to lose your hair because of the kind of treatment,” Maloni said. “They set me up with wigs that day. They said ‘oh she’s here come on in’ and I walked out the door with a couple of wigs.”
And they are just two of the hundreds of women the organization has been able to help in some way. They encourage other cancer patients to reach out for help when they need it.
“That just brings me such a joy when I see them comes in like I did, like a deer in headlights and to say its ok, we’re going to get you through it,” Sheridan-Murphy said.
Cindy is in remission and Meggan still has some treatment left to go through but has a great prognosis.