Tag Archives: breast cancer in young women

Tackling Breast Cancer and Rocking the Runway

Elizabeth Gainey lives in Lexington County with her husband. In the summer of 2017, she was 32 years old and just had a normal physical with her doctor. But a few weeks later, she noticed some unusual changes. At first, doctors thought it was an infection. But testing revealed breast cancer – and a positive result for the “BRCA1” gene – known to increase the risk of breast cancer. Elizabeth shared her story with WLTX this month.

Elizabeth’s did not experience a lump in her breast. Instead, she had redness, swelling and irritation. A biopsy revealed Stage 3 cancer. She underwent a double mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiation at Lexington Medical Center. Today, she’s finished her cancer treatment and is doing well. Her story emphasizes the importance of knowing your body, recognizing changes and speaking with your doctor promptly when you notice something different.

Elizabeth was one of 10 breast cancer survivors who were models at Women’s Night Out on October 16 – Lexington Medical Center’s annual event that honors breast cancer survivors and their families. Here are some photos of Elizabeth rocking the runway. She makes us proud.

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Breast Cancer Survivors Find Latest Reconstruction Techniques Close to Home

If you saw Becky Kriger and Tiffany Becker together at dinner or strolling along the West Columbia Riverwalk, you’d probably guess they’re best friends. They call each other breast friends. That’s because Becky and Tiffany met while getting chemotherapy together. Both were diagnosed and began treatment for breast cancer before their 30th birthdays.

Although breast cancer is the most common cancer diagnosis, it’s still rare in young women. Most cases — 93% — are diagnosed in women over age 40. Becky, a chemical engineer, was 25 when she found the lump in her breast. Tiffany, a surgical technician at Lexington Medical Center, shared her symptoms with a co-worker who urged her to see a surgeon. The same day, Tiffany contacted Lexington Surgical Associates, a Lexington Medical Center physician practice, where her tumor was diagnosed. Within days, a biopsy confirmed it was cancer. Neither Tiffany nor Becky had genetic markers or a strong family history of breast cancer.

Hear what they say about their experience with breast cancer in this video.

 

Although breast cancer is common, each case is as unique as the woman. When Tiffany told her friends about her diagnosis, one of the first to offer help was Todd S. Lefkowitz, MD, FACS, a surgeon at Lexington Plastic Surgery, a Lexington Medical Center physician practice. Tiffany knew Dr. Lefkowitz from working together at the hospital.

“He texted me right away and asked me what I needed,” Tiffany said. “I told him, ‘I want you to fix me!’” After doing her own research, Becky also chose Dr. Lefkowitz for her breast reconstruction.

Dr. Todd Lefkowitz

“A common myth women bring to the first consultation is that their situation is like their mother’s or their friend’s,” Dr. Lefkowitz said. “What they may not realize is that the options we have for breast reconstruction are fairly diverse. What may work really well for one person isn’t a good option for another.”

For some time, surgeons have started breast reconstruction during the mastectomy by placing a device to expand breast tissue under the pectoral muscle. After several in-office procedures to expand the tissue over time, the expander is later surgically replaced with a permanent implant.

A more recent advancement is to perform implant-based reconstruction above the pectoral muscle — a much less painful and prolonged process.

“This technique eliminates a potential source for infection and complication. We’re trying to replace like with like; the mastectomy surgeon took out tissue above the muscle, so let’s put the implant in the same place,” he said.

Dr. Lefkowitz said the movement to go direct-to-implant and skip the expander is another possibility. “We can often put in an implant at the time of mastectomy, instead of a tissue expander. Being able to wake up from surgery and already having a breast that is rebuilt can be very emotionally uplifting for women,” he said.

There are aesthetic advancements as well, such as using the natural crease beneath the breast for an incision to reduce scar visibility, and keeping the natural nipple when the tissue is cancer-free. “The overall techniques of reconstruction are becoming better and better,” he said.

Breast cancer reconstruction works best when it’s integrated with the cancer treatment process. “We try to get patients in to see us before a full treatment plan is finalized, so they can understand the entire process,” Dr. Lefkowitz said. That’s because cancer treatment itself can complicate reconstruction. Radiation can cause changes in the breast tissue that must be addressed after treatment is complete. But chemotherapy can take place before and after mastectomy, and it may continue during and after reconstruction.

Tiffany (left) and Becky (right)

“If there’s a way to streamline the process — to save everyone time, pain and effort — in a safe and effective manner, that’s the way we want to go,” he said.

Streamlining the reconstruction process requires careful attention to the individual. For example, Becky was able to have over-the-muscle implants. Both women have temporary, air-filled breast implants until they complete radiation treatments. After recovery, Dr. Lefkowitz will exchange them for permanent, silicone-filled implants. “That’s really new,” Tiffany said.

Tiffany says her knowledge of doctors and procedures at work left no doubt in her mind about seeking local cancer treatment and reconstructive surgery. Dr. Lefkowitz welcomes informed patients who are advocates for their own health and lifelong well-being. Becky, who moved to the Columbia area just three years ago from Wisconsin, did her research before selecting her surgeons. “I shopped around, and it seems like he did all the modern techniques. And I liked him — he’s funny.”

For his part, Dr. Lefkowitz welcomes knowledgeable patients who come through his door. “We encourage patients to educate themselves about the process and understand they’re a vital part of it,” he said. “It’s patient-driven. People who find their way to my office are emotionally invested in the way they look and feel. Reconstruction is a large part of the healing process — whether they’re women in their 20s or all the way up to their 70s and 80s.”


Join Lexington Medical Center on October 17 for “Women’s Night Out,” a silent auction, dinner and fashion show honoring breast cancer survivors and their families. Visit LMCFoundation.com to purchase tickets.

TV News Reporter’s Breast Cancer Story Highlights Importance of Early Detection

Every now and then, Lexington Medical Center has the opportunity to share the stories of our patients with our community. One of them is Mary Nguyen Bright, who is receiving treatment for breast cancer at our hospital. Mary has undergone chemotherapy, surgery and now radiation at Lexington Medical Cancer Center.

You may recognize her. For many years, she was a news reporter at WLTX, the CBS affiliate TV station in Columbia.

Doctors diagnosed Mary with breast cancer earlier this year, when she was just 40 years old.

She shared her story with her former WLTX colleague, news anchor Darci Strickland, at our hospital this month. During October, which is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Mary wants women to know the importance of early detection.

At Lexington Medical Center, we believe no one should face cancer alone. It’s our fight, too. And we want to provide our patients with exceptional care that results in the best possible outcomes.