Southcoast Took Most of the Worry Out of Breast Cancer

Patti Young wasn’t concerned in May when she was called back for a second screening after getting her annual mammogram.

It had happened to her more than once in the past. This time, however, the radiologist suspected cancer and referred her to Dr. Maureen Chung, a surgical oncologist and medical director of the Southcoast Health Breast Care Program.

“I felt I could trust Dr. Chung right away,” Patti said. “She’s wonderful and knowledgeable. She listens to everything you have to say, and she doesn’t sugarcoat things. She expressed her concerns, but made me feel very at ease at the same.”

Patti is a retired accountant with three children and six grandchildren. She and her husband, Daniel, live in Portsmouth, RI, where they relocated from their native Chicago 30 years ago. With cancer in her family history, she had been having mammograms since she was 35 years old and suspected that someday the screening would reveal a malignancy.

Dr. Chung told Patti to take worry off her plate. As Patti’s doctor, she said, it was her job to worry — first about whether there was cancer and then about how to best use Southcoast’s deep resources and expertise to treat it. Dr. Chung assured Patti that she would get her through it.

“She told me, ‘We’re going to take the worry out of it for you,’ and they did,” Patti said. “I never felt I wouldn’t be OK. Everyone there made me feel confident.”

The biopsy showed cancer in the milk duct, but it was encapsulated and Patti’s doctors believed it had not spread. Patti quickly read up on her disease and options for treatment, and after asking a lot of questions, opted for breast-conserving surgery, which removes the cancerous tissue while leaving as much of the breast as possible.

Once she made the decision, “a lot of things happened really fast,” she said. “I was very grateful for the speed. I’m not the kind of person who likes to sit around and wait.”

In seven weeks, she had 28 doctor appointments, including genetic testing and a meeting with Dr. Tushar Kumar, a Southcoast radiation oncologist. She also had four procedures, starting with the biopsy and a wire placement to locate the spot where the surgeon could get clean margins, meaning tissue free of cancer.

In June, she underwent surgery at Charlton Memorial Hospital to remove the tumor and was home the same day. Then in July, she had a catheter inserted in preparation for brachytherapy, a targeted radiation therapy that involves implanting radioactive material to damage the DNA of cancer cells.

She is grateful that she could receive such excellent care close to home, without traveling to Boston or Providence.

“Every single person I met at Southcoast would take as much time as I wanted,” she said. “There was so much compassion. I couldn’t believe how selfless and kind they were, always going above and beyond.”

Today, she says, she is healed and her energy is restored. She is once again busy crocheting, baking and tending an enormous garden that yields produce for canning and freezing. And, of course, there are the joys of being with her husband, children and grandchildren.

“It’s not easy telling your family you have cancer, and that all these things are going to happen, and for a while you can’t do what you’d done in the past,” she said. “But I’m feeling really good now. I can get back to my life.”

To learn More about the Southcoast Health Breast Center and the services offered at Southcoast Health visit: Comprehensive Breast Care Center RI & MA | Southcoast Health.