Catching Cancer Early
Physicians: Elizabeth Jeffers, MD; Benjamin Gielda, MD; Sapna Patel, MD
Cancer didn’t run in her family and for the last 17 years her mammograms came back clear. So at age 57, when a 1.3 centimeter mass appeared in her right breast, Baroda resident, Kellie Tyler, was shocked.
“When the biopsy came back as cancerous I immediately started crying – I was very scared,” said Kellie. “My primary care provider Shannon [Brown] was very encouraging and let me know that the cancer was only at Stage 1 which was the best case scenario. She immediately got the ball rolling and referred me to the Marie Yeager Cancer Center.”
Kellie’s fears continued to lessen after meeting with nurse navigator, Shelley Wilkinson, RN, CBCN, who answered many questions. Shelley also informed Kellie that, because her breast cancer was at Stage 1, she was a candidate for a new treatment at Lakeland, intraoperative radiation therapy (IORT). IORT delivers radiation at the time of surgery, following tumor removal. For many patients this eliminates the need for an additional six weeks of radiation.
“My care team remained so positive throughout the entire experience,” said Kellie. “They were extremely confident in the technology available here at Lakeland and that made me feel very safe.”
A few weeks following her initial diagnosis, general surgeon, Elizabeth Jeffers, MD, performed lumpectomy surgery to remove the cancerous cells. While still under anesthesia, radiation oncologist, Benjamin Gielda, MD, delivered a dose of radiation directly to the tumor bed.
“Of course I was a little sore after the surgery but overall everything healed really well,” said Kellie. “I’m so thankful I could be treated close to home and didn’t have to drive a long distance back and forth to appointments every day.”
Although the surgery had removed the cancerous cells and Kellie was now “cancer free,” a follow up blood test confirmed that her specific type of breast cancer was estrogen-fed. This put her at a higher likelihood for the cancer to return. As a precaution, oncologist, Sapna Patel, MD, recommended Kellie undergo four additional chemotherapy treatments.
“No one wants to go through chemo and I was very hesitant at first,” said Kellie. “But I trusted my care team and knew that Dr. Patel had my best interests in mind. During my chemo treatments the staff at the Marie Yeager Cancer Center were amazing. They got me everything I needed right away and tried to make me as comfortable as possible.”
As she neared her last chemotherapy treatment, Kellie reflected back on the importance of early detection.
“Getting a regular mammogram is so important – it truly does save lives,” she said. “My cancer was so small that I likely would have never known it was there without a mammogram and the tumor would have just continued to grow.”
Kellie is also proud to say that, since her diagnosis, both her sisters and two women she works with have scheduled their mammogram appointments.
In October 2016, Lakeland Health became the first health system in the region (west Michigan and northern Indiana) to begin providing radiotherapy using the ZEISS INTRABEAM intraoperative radiotherapy (IORT) system. Up until now, the treatment has only been offered primarily at large university medical centers and research hospitals. Learn more at www.lakelandhealth.org/IORT