As far as her breast health was concerned, Diane Waldron did everything right. She exercised, ate healthy, didn’t smoke or take hormone replacement therapy, and got yearly mammograms. However, sometimes risk factors win out over preventative measures. “I did the best I could, but my mother dying of breast cancer at 49 and my dense breast tissue put me at a higher risk to develop the disease,” says Waldron.
In August 2018, Waldron was diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma. “The mammogram found a lump that neither I nor the surgeon could feel,” describes Waldron. A former nurse, she extensively researched treatments, facilities and physicians. Ultimately, the St. Simons Island resident chose Southeast Georgia Health System. “If I had to go through this, I didn’t want to drive to Jacksonville or Savannah. And my research proved that I didn’t need to, because the physicians and technology at Southeast Georgia Health System are exceptional.”
Waldron’s next step was evaluating advice from Duane Moores, M.D., Ph.D., a medical oncologist with Southeast Georgia Physician Associates-Hematology & Oncology. Waldron shares, “Dr. Moores really focused on me and my situation. He recommended blood and BRCA oncogene testing because of my family history.” Waldron’s health care team also recommended surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. “Having worked with chemo patients years ago, I was extremely anxious. Now, however, aggressive measures are taken to prevent nausea and vomiting,” Waldron says. She was equally concerned about losing her hair, but polar cold cap therapy helped her avoid significant hair loss.
After surgeon Stephen Barrett, M.D., Southeast Georgia Physician Associates-Glynn General & Vascular Surgery, performed her lumpectomy, Waldron did five days of CyberKnife treatment with Timothy A. Jamieson, M.D., Ph.D., a board-certified radiation oncologist and medical director of the Health System’s CyberKnife program and the Cancer Care Centers in Brunswick and Camden. “The Health System has the only CyberKnife® M6 Robotic Radiosurgery System in Georgia,” says Jamieson. “This state-of-the-art technology kills cancer cells with extreme accuracy while sparing healthy tissue surrounding the treatment area.”
Guided by real-time imaging, Jamieson targeted Waldron’s tumor with high-dose radiation beams. “Traditionally, we treat the whole breast. With CyberKnife, we can treat just the tumor. It’s more efficient, protects healthy tissue, reduces side effects and shortens treatment time,” Jamieson explains.
Moores adds, “We’re working on the molecular level now, targeting treatments to the particular genetic structure of each woman’s cancer.”
An Ounce of
Moores states, “Several prospective studies have shown that exercise can reduce the incidence of breast cancer by 20-30 percent, especially in premenopausal women. Even moderate exercise can reduce breast cancer recurrence and mortality by 40-65 percent.”
Moores also recommends being vigilant with mammograms, especially in patients with increased risk of breast cancer. He adds that mammogram guidelines can sometimes be confusing. “Women need to discuss with their doctor their personal risk of developing breast cancer, and from there, determine mammogram frequency. A woman’s lifetime risk of breast cancer can be highly variable. But research clearly shows that mammograms reduce breast cancer death rates.”
As a former nurse, Waldron had high expectations for her care. “I expect a lot from my doctors and they were with me every step of the way. They educated me, asked my opinions and respected my decisions.”
Today, Waldron is cancer-free. Her chance of recurrence is low, thanks to her comprehensive treatment plan. As Moores explains, “We’re constantly reviewing the newest research and technologies and implementing them into treatment plans. Patients don’t need to go to another facility; the latest treatments are offered here at Southeast Georgia Health System.”
Reflecting on her experience, Waldron agrees. “Our hospital has great technology and rigorously-trained, board-certified cancer doctors. People can be comfortable with our community hospital taking care of them.”
To schedule a mammogram or to see if you qualify for a free or low-cost mammogram, call 912-466-5235.