Self-Exam Prompts Successful Outcome for Breast Cancer SurvivorKristen Davidson stayed on top of her breast health, performing regular self-exams and getting annual mammograms.
So when she discovered a suspicious lump in her left breast in August 2017, she immediately called her doctor. Tests confirmed she had cancer, but her quick action and the coordination of her team at the Penn Medicine | Virtua Cancer Program helped lead to successful treatment.
“My doctors worked as a team, and my nurse navigator was a lifeline for me and my family throughout treatment,” said Kristen, 48, of Cherry Hill. “I always felt included in the process and confident that I was getting the best possible cancer care.”
The Road AheadKristen was diagnosed with stage 3C cancer, with masses in her left breast and chest wall. She met with Virtua breast surgeon Lori Timmerman, DO, who reviewed all of her treatment options.
That October, she started 16 rounds of chemotherapy to treat the tumors, followed by a bilateral mastectomy and DIEP flap breast reconstruction. The flap procedure uses a woman’s own tissue to rebuild the breast rather than an implant and requires an experienced breast surgeon and microvascular plastic surgeon working together.
“I chose to have both breasts removed because of the size and location of the tumors, and it was the best option to reduce the chances of a recurrence,” said Kristen.
A six-week course of radiation therapy made sure all the cancer cells were eliminated. On Kristen’s final day of treatment—her oldest son’s 15th birthday—she rang the cancer center’s bell to mark the milestone.
“I could finally exhale,” she said.
Know Your Lumps and BumpsDr. Timmerman encourages women to know the look and feel of their breasts and to get yearly mammograms. Women with dense breast tissue like Kristen’s should consider further evaluation with a specialist to see if they need additional screening or imaging.
Kristen praised Dr. Timmerman for her caring approach and the close relationship she forms with her patients and their families.
“I care about all of my patients. Breast cancer is very personal. I have family members who are breast cancer survivors,” said Dr. Timmerman. “It’s very important for my patients to feel comfortable, that they can talk to me. They know I am listening and we can come up with a good plan together.”
Thanks to Kristen sharing her story, family and friends have been motivated to get their mammograms. Her sister-in-law’s screening detected breast cancer, and she was able to get it treated at an early stage.
To continue spreading awareness about the importance of breast cancer screenings, she and her husband Jay, with support from friends and family members, founded a team called Kristen’s Krusaders for the annual Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk.
She also volunteers with the American Cancer Society and participates in cancer support groups.
“Knowing your body is key,” said Kristen. “If through my experience I can help one person, I’ll know that I made a difference.”
Exceptional Breast Cancer Care in Your NeighborhoodIf you have a highly suspicious mammogram, we’ll connect you with a breast surgeon within 48 hours. Request a breast consultation here.
Updated February 10, 2022