"You Have Breast Cancer..."

Patient Story: Frances Watts

It was October 2014. Frances Watts was doing her monthly breast self-exam when she found the lump. Not one to put things off, she contacted her family doctor, who ordered an ultrasound and MRI. Her doctor called her back with the results and referred Frances to see Brian Schmidt, DO, a general surgeon who operates on breast cancer patients. After consulting with Dr. Schmidt, a biopsy was scheduled for November 21, 2014.

Biopsy and Diagnosis

Frances’ biopsy was performed using wire localization with ultrasound guidance. Jeffrey Wasserman, DO, Medical Director of Radiology and lead mammographer, explains doctors on his team used ultrasound to locate the exact location of the lump. After local anesthesia, the radiologist inserted a needle with a wire to locate the lump, then extracted the needle, leaving the wire. During the biopsy, Dr. Schmidt followed the wire to the end and removed a sample of the lump.

Frances received a call from Dr. Schmidt the day before Thanksgiving, and it was not the news for which she’d hoped. “Dr. Schmidt told me that the lump was positive for stage one cancer. I was grateful that I found the lump early,” says Frances. “But we did have to discuss the options — did I want a mastectomy with reconstruction, or did I want a lumpectomy and face possible chemo and radiation in the future?”

Determining Treatment

Dr. Schmidt says that once Frances was diagnosed, he referred her to a radiology oncologist and Joshua Kreithen, MD, a plastic surgeon, to determine the course of treatment. “Frances chose to have the mastectomy with reconstruction, because she didn’t want to worry about a recurrence of breast cancer in the future. She had a great support system, and was very positive, upbeat and peaceful about her decision,” says Dr. Schmidt.

The next step for Frances was the mastectomy followed by reconstructive surgery, which was scheduled for Christmas Eve. As soon as Dr. Schmidt finished, Dr. Kreithen took over and started the reconstructive part of surgery. “Having tissue expanders placed at the time of the mastectomy is common, and it eliminates the patient having to come back for another procedure,” says Dr. Kreithen. Once the incisions healed, Frances went back to Dr. Kreithen’s office every couple of weeks so the expanders could be filled with fluid.

In March 2015, the expanders were removed and replaced with implants. Frances has one more surgery to complete the process, and that will be the nipple reconstruction. “Frances has done really well with this process because of her positive attitude,” says Dr. Kreithen. “Having a great attitude is really critical to having a good outcome.”

Comprehensive Care

Dr. Wasserman agrees, and also says that teamwork is one of the biggest advances in medicine. “By tying these three components together, the detection, the surgery and the reconstruction, we are able to work together as a team to provide comprehensive care that meets each person’s unique needs.”

Frances says she is so blessed to receive care from such a wonderful team of doctors. “From the time I was diagnosed until now, my doctors were there every step of the way, and they understood my sense of humor. The nurses and staff showed me great compassion and empathy, and I highly recommend them and Lakewood Ranch Medical Center,” she says.

Frances continues to remind every woman she knows to do their monthly breast exam. “Because I checked myself regularly, I found the lump,” she says. “Hopefully, by reminding other women, they can learn what is normal for them and what is not, and take immediate action if something doesn’t feel right. It can save their life.”

Learn more about the Breast Health Center at Lakewood Ranch Medical Center.