It was only last May, when Phyllis McHargue’s life was thrown into overdrive by a simple test. Phyllis had her routine mammogram done, just as she had been doing for more than 20 years. This time, however, Dr. Michael Bukstein noticed a change in a spot he had been watching over the years. He immediately biopsied it. When the results came back, it was breast cancer.
Phyllis was diagnosed with cuctal carcinoma in situ, which is a form of early or non-invasive breast cancer, but without treatment the abnormal cells eventually could turn into invasive cancer.
“I was terrified at the time, but now I realize that they made it very easy.” Phyllis said. “My doctors and the folks at the James E. Cary Cancer Center made me so comfortable, there was no reason to go anywhere else.”
After the biopsy at the Hannibal Clinic, Phyllis met with Dr. Joseph Bean, radiation oncologist at the James E. Cary Cancer Center, and was offered three treatment options. Her breast cancer was caught early enough that she chose the five-day APBI treatment plan because it had a shorter radiation treatment schedule and because it would have very little effect on the healthy tissue — where the cancer had previously been. Also, published studies show there is very low risk of recurrence after this type of internal radiation treatment.
“I was so glad that I was a candidate for this.” Phyllis said.
At a time when her mind was occupied with myriad questions, her doctors took the time to explain the process
Once she was ready, her APBI treatments began, twice a day for five days. The doctor inserted a small balloon attached to a thin tube inside the lumpectomy cavity through a small incision in the breast. The balloon was then inflated with a saline solution, and Bean was able to deliver the targeted therapy exactly to the location of the cancer.
With the support of her family and co-workers at the Hannibal Convention and Visitors Bureau, Phyllis was able to receive treatment early in the morning and in the late afternoon — still being able to go to work between treatments.
Phyllis completed her treatments even before the shock of the diagnosis was fully realized. Looking back, she knows that she was very fortunate to be diagnosed early and to have the five-day APBI as a treatment option.
“My story could have been a lot different. I highly recommend the James E. Cary Cancer Center and APBI to anyone diagnosed with early breast cancer — and to always to get your mammogram,” Phyllis advised.