The biopsy -- finding out if that suspicious lump really is cancer -- is a critical point in a woman's journey through breast cancer diagnosis and treatment.
According to Susan Sebastian, 40, that turning point will be easier with someone at the helm for your biopsy who helps you feel physically and emotionally comfortable. In Susan's case, that someone was physician Anne Zimmermann, MD, of Edward Hospital and Naperville Radiologists, a diagnostic radiologist specializing in breast health.
Susan Sebastian went to Edward Hospital for her first screening mammogram in February of 2008, a few months after her 40th birthday. When Dr. Zimmermann reviewed Susan's images, she saw something that concerned her. Dr. Zimmermann set up an appointment for Susan to have additional mammogram images and an ultrasound.
Results of the tests conducted the next day confirmed a worrisome lesion; it was time for Susan to consult a surgeon. The consultation led to an MRI and a referral to Dr. Zimmermann for an ultrasound-guided biopsy. In this procedure, the patient lies on a table while the lesion is located via ultrasound. The radiologist then makes the incision and extracts the tissue for testing.
"Dr. Zimmermann had such a comforting manner and explained everything clearly," says Sebastian. "Her approach kept both the physical and emotional discomfort to a minimum. And, her incision was so small that the plastic surgeon I saw later could barely find it."
The tests showed that Susan had stage III breast cancer, meaning the cancer had spread to the lymph nodes. When Susan later needed a biopsy for a lump in her armpit, she went directly to Dr. Zimmermann.
"It made it easier knowing she would be taking care of everything," recalls Sebastian. "You can tell that she cares about what she does and she cares about people."
Dr. Zimmermann is one of 17 radiologists with subspecialty experience on staff at Edward through its partnership with Naperville Radiologists.
Dr. Zimmermann's area of expertise, breast imaging, is just one of more than a dozen subspecialties that radiologists can pursue after they earn their medical degree and complete their residency. Others include cardiovascular, emergency, neurology and musculoskeletal. There also are interventional radiologists, who perform minimally invasive procedures such as angioplasty and removal of uterine fibroids.
In Susan's case, following Dr. Zimmermann's involvement, her surgeon later performed a radical mastectomy on her right side with removal of lymph nodes, a simple mastectomy on her left side as a preventive measure and the first stage of reconstructive surgery. Susan, a mother of two pre-schoolers and businesswoman with regional responsibilities, is now going through chemotherapy and is scheduled for radiation treatment. Susan's oncologist tells her that she's doing "excellent."
Visit www.edward.org/cancer to learn more.