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Monthly Diligence Matters: A Breast Cancer Survivor’s Story

Most of us know that monthly self breast exams are important. Karen Carter knew it and shared that information daily with other women. Karen is an Assistant Manager and Technologist at Wake Radiology. She shares her story about how this simple, easy exam saved her life. Patient_Story_KarenCarter_survivorHaving been involved in the medical field for 42 years, I have always been diligent about getting my yearly mammogram as well as doing monthly breast exams. In November 2012, I was 57 and had my normal screening mammogram. It was clear. Just four months later in March 2013, I found a lump in my right breast during my monthly breast exam. Like so many women when faced with finding a lump, I thought about my choices of taking a wait-and-see attitude or immediately getting it checked out. With the encouragement and support of my husband, I called my GYN and got an order for a diagnostic mammogram with possible ultrasound. I chose Wake Radiology not only because I work there but also because I knew the radiologists who would interpret my exams would be a breast imaging specialist. My diagnostic mammogram was still inconclusive, so we proceeded with a breast ultrasound. This exam displayed the abnormal area that I had felt. One of the breast imaging specialists came into the room to explain the ultrasound findings and recommended that I have an ultrasound guided biopsy as soon as possible. The radiologist was extremely understanding and said that if I needed a day or two to think about and process what was happening that would be fine. I knew that waiting a day or two was not going to change the outcome, so I chose to have the biopsy done that afternoon and was thankful that Wake Radiology worked me into the schedule. The very next afternoon, my husband and I received the results from Dr. Phillip Pretter, the compassionate radiologist who performed the biopsy. I did have breast cancer, thus beginning my journey navigating the intricacies of so many decisions concerning treatment. Dr. Pretter spent a great deal of time explaining the biopsy results and helping to calm our fears. We felt like our world had just turned upside down. The breast center manager, Courtney Cook, came into the room and helped us get an appointment with a breast surgeon as well as a medical oncologist. There was just such an enormous amount of information to process in such a short period of time, but I felt that the caring and compassionate staff of Wake Radiology helped me navigate this journey in a positive way. After speaking to several physicians, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, and my breast surgeon, I decided upon a lumpectomy with radiation. The day after the surgery, my surgeon called to say that at the site of the lumpectomy we had clear margins, but one of my sentinel nodes showed a small micrometastasis. It was determined to treat that with radiation after receiving the results of my Onca Type score. I continue to receive my yearly diagnostic mammogram with Wake Radiology as well as an annual breast MRI due to the density of my breast tissue. I could not have been blessed with a better team of professionals who have been by my side in helping me make informed decisions concerning my care. A simple thank you does not convey my gratefulness to all who provided me with such outstanding and compassionate care. At times it is difficult to understand our journeys when we are in the midst of turmoil. As time has passed, this experience has truly given me an opportunity to help in some small way with the healing process of so many of our patients as well as being helped myself through their kind and encouraging words. To sum it up, I am grateful to God for each and every day that He gives me and my life has been made richer through the precious gifts of a loving family, friends, coworkers, and patients who have touched my heart with kindness and compassion! We at Wake Radiology are so thankful that we were able to play a part in Karen’s care and are even more thrilled that she remains cancer free. We’re also extremely proud of the quality of our mammography technologists and breast imaging radiologists. We know their expertise matters to patients – especially during the critical time of a cancer diagnosis. Wake Radiology is the Triangle leader in 3D mammography – a revolutionary screening and diagnostic tool designed for early breast cancer detection.  We encourage all women to learn more about 3D mammography and to  schedule an annual mammogram. This simple exam coupled with monthly self-exams can save lives. We know Karen would agree.

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