Medical Imaging Stories

Detecting Breast Cancer EARLY Was Key

Karen Manning

Karen Manning talks about the days that led up to her finding out she had breast cancer over a decade ago, like it was yesterday. Having lost her dear friend and sister-in-law to breast cancer, Karen was vigilant about getting her mammograms annually beginning at age 40. “It is so important to get that base test for doctors to compare to,” she said.

Seven years after that first, base mammogram at the Richland Hospital, Karen found a small pea-sized lump that felt like a tiny rock in her breast during a self-exam. “I immediately thought, ‘Oh no, did I just feel that’ then fear took over! I went into denial and didn’t touch that spot.”

Due for her annual medical exam and mammogram, Karen scheduled her appointments. “I didn’t mention anything to the provider,” she said. “I was still in self-denial and thought if they don’t say anything then maybe it’s nothing.”

Nothing was found or said during the exam, but after her mammogram, Richland Hospital Radiologist, Dr. John Wentz wanted to talk to Karen. He told her that he was seeing something different on this screening. “I asked him to describe where the difference was. He described the exact area that I had found,” she said. “I immediately went into a ‘do something about it’ mode.”

Things moved very quickly, her doctor was unavailable so Karen, her husband Leo and her mother went to Spring Green Medical Center to work with the first available provider to set-up a referral to a specialist in Madison.

Karen surrounded herself with support people. “It is helpful to have more than one person in the room to hear everything said,” Karen said. “My husband went to every appointment and procedure.”

The surgeon scheduled a biopsy to run multiple tests. Initial results from the frozen core biopsy, came back clear, but when the additional test results came back, Karen got the call telling her she had breast cancer.

“I was very scared. I didn’t know if they would have to take the breast. I didn’t know how many lymph nodes they would have to take. I worried about my future and my kids and so many things,” she said. Karen’s surgeon gave her very calming news when she said, “I don’t see this affecting your life long-term.”

During surgery, Karen had a lumpectomy and a sentinel node biopsy to see which lymph nodes would be most likely connected to the tumor. Two lymph nodes were removed. The margins surrounding the tumor sight were clean and free of cancer and the lymph nodes were clear too. “That was a moment of great relief,” she said. “I had Infiltrating Ductal Carcinoma which is very invasive if not caught early, but we caught it early! The diagnosis was stage 1, grade 1 and it was 1 centimeter in size.”

Following surgery, Karen met her oncologist and began five and one half weeks of radiation therapy. She continued regular appointments with her oncologist for five years. At her last appointment, her oncologist said, “Hopefully, I will never see you again.”
Karen agreed. Today, she has been cancer free for more than twelve years. She gets her mammogram every year and is vigilant about changes she sees in her body. “I lost my good friend to breast cancer because she didn’t catch hers until it was stage 3,” she said. “Today, I pester all my friends and family members about getting a regular mammogram. Early detection saved my life.”

She added, “It is so important for every woman to do regular breast self-exams. We know our body better than anyone.”

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