On any given day, you’ll find cancer patients and survivors who have found hope and help at Thompson Comprehensive Breast Center. One such woman is there every day the doors are open. “There’s so much good here, so much healing and loving,” Sue Miller says, “and I found that out, firsthand.”
Miller works in patient registration at the center, and her breast cancer was discovered after a screening mammogram and biopsy. It came as a surprise. “I was just in shock…it was the furthest thing from my mind,” Miller says. “They caught it early, and it was very, very small.”
Thompson’s certified technologists perform more than 13,000 mammograms each year using the latest in digital technology, including digital 3D mammography (tomosynthesis), which allows the radiologist to better detect smaller cancers – even within dense breast tissue. “It’s a newer technology and not necessary for all women, but it definitely allows a little bit finer look at breast tissue,” says Thompson surgical oncologist Troy Kimsey, MD, “especially when we have a dense and more complicated breast to look at. It gives us a more detailed look.”
For Miller, cancer meant a change in perspective. She used to feel especially sympathetic towards cancer patients who were younger mothers, and now she’s able to extend empathy to a broader circle of women who need that support. “Breast cancer affects everyone pretty much the same,” Miller says. “The women who come in here, they all need that warmth, they need the friendliness, they need to know they’re cared for, and I like doing that.”
Because her cancer was caught in its earliest stages, she was able to undergo a shorter duration of radiation therapy. “If a woman meets certain criteria with a lower grade, smaller cancer, she may be a candidate for a lumpectomy and what we call ‘partial breast radiation,’” Dr. Kimsey says. “We insert a balloon into the lumpectomy cavity through a catheter, and then the radiation oncologist delivers the radiation through that balloon, so there’s a higher concentration of radiation around the lumpectomy cavity.”
While whole breast radiation usually takes four to six weeks, partial breast radiation takes only five days. Dr. Kimsey stresses that Miller wouldn’t have been a candidate for this type of treatment had her cancer not been detected in such early stages. “It can’t be emphasized enough that screening mammograms are what allows us to detect clinically undetectable disease, and that puts us in a better position in terms of treatment and outcomes.”
To schedule a mammogram, visit thompsoncancer.com/breastcenter, or call (865) 331-1624.