Sara Forrester is faithful about getting yearly mammograms. At five feet tall, the sprightly grandmother takes care of her health by walking regularly, and says she usually hits 10,000 steps on her pedometer every day. “I always get a screening (mammogram) every year. I try to go during October, during breast cancer awareness month, because I get a goody bag!” she said with a laugh.
In October 2015, Forrester’s insurance said she was eligible for a digital tomosynthesis screening if she wanted it. Tomosynthesis is a three-dimensional image, compared to a two-dimensional mammogram. “They asked me which one I wanted, and I wanted the tomosynthesis,” she said. “This was the first year I was told Medicare would cover it.” Since breast cancer is denser than regular breast tissue, a tumor appears as a white spot on an otherwise lighter gray mammogram. Tomosynthesis improves the radiologists’ ability to detect potential breast cancers by helping to pinpoint the size, shape and location of abnormalities.
Tomosynthesis builds upon the success of digital mammography and was recently shown to improve rate of cancer detection and reduce the number of unnecessary call-backs in an article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, June 2014. Experts believe that this method will soon become the gold standard in breast cancer screening and detection. Parkwest Comprehensive Breast Center was the first facility in Knoxville to offer the tomosynthesis technology to its patients.
In Forrester’s case, it showed a spot on her left breast. A biopsy confirmed it was a cancerous tumor. In mid-November she underwent a partial mastectomy (lumpectomy) and had one lymph node removed at Parkwest Medical Center. “Dr. Lytle Brown did a lumpectomy,” she said. “He made a small incision on the breast and a small incision under my arm to take out a lymph node. The lymph node was clear, meaning the cancer had not spread to it.”
Brown said the decision to have a partial mastectomy was right for Forrester.
“It was an early stage of cancer. For a lot of women, whether you do a partial mastectomy or a full mastectomy is going to depend on size of tumor, the involvement of underlying skin, the size of the breast in relation to the tumor and other factors. You have to individualize care for each person, and this was right for her,” said Brown.
Forrester went home the same day of her surgery, and in January began a series of 20 radiation treatments at Thompson Cancer Survival Center-West.
Today, Forrester is on a medication to reduce her chance of recurrence, and has an excellent prognosis. She said she would recommend Parkwest Medical Center to anyone needing breast cancer care.
“The staff at Parkwest, I couldn’t ask for better. They’re just wonderful people,” she said. “I’m doing great, and I am so blessed. I’m hopeful this will take care of it and it will never come back. I don’t let this get me down, I’ve got too much living to do,” she said. “I want to see my two grandsons and my granddaughter grow up. I don’t have time for breast cancer – I’m too busy!”