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News Room: Press Releases

Thinking about delaying your mammogram? Don't!

Patty Lubrano-Feinstein is a nurse, wife and mom to three kids ages 10, 8 and 5. At 49, she's young, active and busy with a full-time career and her children's rigorous school and sports schedules. But even at the hectic pace she keeps, she NEVER misses her annual GYN exam or mammogram, a screening she started having at age 40.

In November 2010, Patty had her annual mammogram. Like each year before, Patty didn't expect anything unusual. She has no family history of breast cancer. She lives a healthy life. And she had no lumps to cause concern.

Though soon after her mammogram, she was called back in for a diagnostic mammogram, which is similar to a regular mammogram but provides better views of specific areas of breast tissue.

The radiologist saw "something" - a small cluster of calcifications, which are bits of calcium that can occur in areas where cells are growing rapidly, such as in a cancerous tumor. While these can still be benign (non-cancerous), further investigation was needed to make a definitive diagnosis.

Patty was scheduled for a needle biopsy with a breast surgeon. The surgeon guided a small needle to the suspicious area in the breast so that cells could be removed and tested for cancer.

Soon after this test, Patty was diagnosed with stage 1 breast cancer, and a lumpectomy showed that there was invasive cancer in a few areas. While a stage 1 cancer diagnosis carries a very positive 90% survival rate, it also carries heavy decisions about things like mastectomy, double mastectomy, radiation, chemotherapy…

For Patty, it was like a brick that fell out of the sky. There was no way to expect it or prepare for it.

She weighed her options, and decided on a double mastectomy with reconstruction and had chemotherapy to decrease the chance of recurrence.

While she never expected a breast cancer diagnosis, she dealt with it as best she could. She had a village of co-workers, friends and family who cooked, carpooled and cleaned during her 9-week recovery. When she lost her hair during chemo, friends and family brought beautiful scarves and her husband and kids got close crops and pixies to show their support.

To help her kids understand why she would lose her hair during chemotherapy, together they read the book "The Goodbye Cancer Garden," in which a mom going through cancer treatment and her children plant a vegetable garden knowing that by the time the last pumpkins sprouted in the fall, the mom would be feeling much better and her hair would be growing back. Patty and her kids even planted their own garden to keep track of her progress during treatment.

Now, almost a year later, Patty is back to work and back to her busy life. She completed the second stage of breast reconstruction and is growing back her hair. However, like the mom in "The Goodbye Cancer Garden," she'll be donning her scarves until she and her kids pick the last pumpkins in THEIR garden at Halloween. Her outlook is positive, and she's determined to share her story to drive home one extremely important message to women:

Mammograms can save lives. And Patty is proof!

If you're due for your mammogram, call a Virtua Navigator at 1-877-896-6267 to schedule it today - the navigator will even work with your insurance company to make sure it's covered.

If you're not sure if you need a mammogram, talk with your doctor. Recommendations are based on your family history of breast and ovarian cancer, lifestyle factors and findings from clinical and self-breast exams.

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