Gratitude Stories – Mary
A Grateful Breast Cancer Patient Reflects on Her Experience
It was May of 2022 and Mary Heath was at Newport Hospital for her annual breast cancer screening. At the time, she assumed the mammogram would come back negative, as they always had. “But this time was different,” she recalls. “My radiologist noticed something that gave her pause. I remember her saying ‘I don’t like the looks of this’.”
That observation set in motion a series of swift actions taken by Mary’s care team that she would not only be grateful for later, but would marvel at the speed, precision, and coordination with which they were undertaken.
‘They got it all!’
First, a reading of Mary’s initial screening mammogram indicated new and potentially suspicious calcification in her left breast. From there, a 3-D diagnostic mammogram was requested to get a closer, deeper look, which was followed by a stereotactic biopsy. Next, Mary’s sample tissue was sent to a pathologist for microscopic examination, and she was diagnosed with ductal carcinoma in situ or DCIS.
DCIS is a non- or pre-invasive breast cancer, often referred to as stage 0. This means the cells that line the ducts have changed to cancer cells but have not spread through the walls of the ducts into the nearby breast tissue.
Once diagnosed, Mary underwent a needle-localized biopsy to pinpoint her breast abnormality and indicate, for the surgeon, exactly what tissue was to be removed. On October 13, 2022, she had her outpatient surgery, which was followed by a series of five targeted radiation treatments over a 10-day period to reduce the chances of another DCIS. Upon completion of those, Mary was able to return to her everyday life and activities. No chemotherapy or additional procedures were required. “They got it all!” Mary exclaims, reflecting back.
Teamwork and technology
What made Mary’s remarkable success story possible was a unique combination of teamwork and technology. The teamwork included the efforts of dedicated, highly skilled health care professionals and support staff from Newport Hospital collaborating with their Lifespan colleagues from the Anne C. Pappas Center for Breast Imaging at Rhode Island Hospital. The technology included state-of-the art diagnostic imaging equipment, which enabled early detection and ensured a good outcome.
One piece of that equipment, the 3-D tomosynthesis digital unit used to perform Mary’s diagnostic mammogram, was acquired through donor generosity. It was the fund-a-need at Newport Hospital’s 2021 Summer Gala, A Salute to Health: Be Part of the Picture. Again, demonstrating the power of philanthropy in action.
“All those donors need to know how super grateful I am,” Mary says, “and that I’m not the only one benefitting from their generosity. It’s really making a difference and helping to save lives.”