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Don't Ignore a Lump

Don't wait, early diagnosis saves lives.

Your Local Health | Written by BJ Towe

Having fibrocystic breasts made it easy for Vicki Haley to dismiss lumps as cysts.

Vicki Haley, 59, of Ankeny found a lump in her breasts when she was about 30 years old. After it was removed by lumpectomy, she learned she had fibrocystic breast disease, a noncancerous condition in which fibrous tissue or fluid-filled cysts form and can become tender – especially right before a period.

Since that diagnosis, Haley was diligent about getting routine mammograms, but she never considered the possibility that she might get breast cancer. Anytime I felt a lump, I’d think, ‘Oh, it’s just another cyst,'” Haley says.

One Time, It Wasn't "Just Another Cyst"

In December 2009, her mammogram revealed something unusual. “There were little white speckles, which the Radiologist told me needed to be checked further,” she says.

Michael Mohan, M.D., a General Surgeon with The Iowa Clinic, performed a lumpectomy to remove the area of concern. Pathology reports showed that Haley had not one, but several types of cancer.

Dr. Mohan called Haley with the news that she had breast cancer: “That, of course, flips your world upside down,” she says.

The next morning, she met with Dr. Mohan and learned about her options. Haley chose to have a second lumpectomy to clean up the margins of the initial surgery to make sure all cancer cells had been removed. Surrounding lymph nodes were also removed to determine if the cancer had traveled to them.

Six weeks of radiation therapy followed to assure that the cancer wouldn’t return. It didn’t.

Still Cancer free, Haley Chooses Bilateral Mastectomy

By the time 2013 rolled around, Haley was tired of wondering if the cancer would return. “I told Dr. Mohan that I wanted a double mastectomy and to be done with it. In hindsight, I wish I had done it at the get-go. It would have gotten rid of a lot of unnecessary stress,” she says.

In April 2013, Mohan removed Haley’s breasts and Konstantinos Lekkas, M.D., performed the first steps toward breast reconstruction. Six months later – in October 2013 – Lekkas completed the reconstruction.

“The care I received was just excellent. (The doctors) all had conversations with each other and pointed me in the direction I needed to go. I’m very happy with my results,” says Haley, who is now five years out from her initial breast cancer diagnosis.

It Can Happen to You

Haley doesn’t want other women with fibrocystic disease to think breast cancer can’t happen to them. “Go in for your mammogram. It saved my life because it allowed my cancer to be caught early. My children and grandchildren need me,” she says.

If you’re over 40 and it’s time for your annual mammogram, make an appointment at The Iowa Clinic Women’s Center by calling 515.875.9500.

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