Early detection makes difference in breast cancer treatment options

Survivor LuAnn Long poses with her daughter Ann Connors. Courtesy photo

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The Gazette is partnering with title sponsor Penrose-St. Francis Breast Care Center and ribbon sponsor Peak Vista Community Health Centers to bring you inspiring stories of local breast cancer survivors and a behind-the-scenes look at the care process from physicians, surgeons, nurses and volunteers throughout October.

After a routine mammogram at Evans Army Community Hospital in July, LuAnn Long got a call to come back for a follow-up mammogram and ultrasound, and she was quickly referred for a biopsy.

“Once they told me what nobody wants to hear – ’You have cancer’ – I knew I was in for the fight of my life,” the 60 year old said. “I immediately told them to do a double mastectomy. Just get it over with.” Thankfully, her doctor advised her to slow down. “He said ‘Wait a minute, back up. Let’s discuss this,’” she said. “The tumor was very small and not aggressive. He was certain a lumpectomy with radiation, followed by medication, would be sufficient.”

Long had surgery at the Evans Army Community Hospital and was directed to Penrose-St. Francis Health Services for further treatment. Penrose Cancer Center is part of the Centura Health Cancer Network, delivering advanced, integrated cancer care across Colorado and western Kansas. “Everyone was so cooperative and worked very well together,” Long said. “Doctors from both hospitals approved the treatment strategy, and the whole group was beyond awesome.”

Long said the cancer journey was not what she expected, which she credits to the quality support she received from friends, family, and the team at Penrose Cancer Center. After her lumpectomy, she was treated with internal radiation therapy. A new and variable type of treatment, internal radiation therapy involves a sealed implant placed close to, or inside the tumor, harming as few normal cells as possible. “I had five radiation treatments in mid September and on September 17, I was on my way to Florida.”

The thorough and thoughtful care Long received from the staff at Penrose Cancer Center helped her proceed calmly and confidently through treatment. “The entire process was enlightening, and I learned so much,” she said. “I met many who had it much worse than I did, and it made me so thankful we’d caught my cancer at an early stage.”

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