Deepa's Breast Cancer Story

While on spring break with her family in 2015, Deepa felt pain in the right side of her chest. After a mammogram reveled a mass in her breast, she immediately got an ultrasound and biopsy. At 41 years of age, Deepa, a new breast surgeon faculty member at Grant Medical Center in Ohio, was diagnosed with invasive breast cancer.

Like most patients, Deepa was devastated with the diagnosis and what it could potentially mean for her career as a breast surgeon. She was faced with the same decisions her patients had to make – whether to get a lumpectomy or mastectomy, and whether or not she would need chemotherapy.

As a surgeon, she knew a lumpectomy would also include radiation with potential side effect – something she had seen first-hand with her patients. Ultimately, Deepa decided on a mastectomy with reconstruction.

After her mastectomy, the pathology results showed that she had a 1.5cm tumor. Deepa immediately knew that she would need the Oncotype DX test. Based on her clinical features, Deepa guessed that she would have an Oncotype DX Recurrence Score of 10.

The results came back with a Recurrence Score of 18 meaning her benefit from chemotherapy would be low, and she decided not to do chemotherapy.

“All of this has allowed me to gain a unique perspective from being a breast cancer surgeon and breast cancer patient. Now I know what it’s like to face cancer. I have walked in my patients’ shoes.”

After this experience, she recognizes that there are real people behind the statistics that doctors give to patients. Deepa now calls her patients as soon as their results come in because she understands their anxiety when waiting for answers. Deepa ensures that when she has discussions with her patients, they have a shared decision-making process about treatment and that her patients are empowered to ask the right questions when they see a medical oncologist.

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