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When Donna Moore discovered a lump on her breast in the summer of 2022, she was justifiably concerned. In addition to having an older sister who had breast cancer, she had been using an estrogen-based cream prescribed to her for persistent urinary tract infections for nearly 20 years. Studies have linked higher blood levels of the estrogen called estradiol to an increased risk of breast cancer in postmenopausal women.
On September 23, 2022, she was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Donna, who was 78 at the time, was referred to MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital Center, where she saw Ankit Madan, MD, a hematologist and medical oncologist, and Patricia Wehner, MD, a breast surgeon.
“One of the first things Dr. Madan told me was to stop using the estrogen cream,” Donna says. “He then explained my treatment plan and told me what to expect during treatment.”
“The initial ultrasound performed assessed the size of the tumor,” Dr. Madan explains. “After a biopsy of the tissue, her cancer was found to be estrogen positive and HER2/neu negative. She was also at a higher risk of cancer recurrence based on a high-risk score on the Oncotype DX test, a genetic test done on breast tissue that determines the risk of distant recurrence, and predicts benefit from chemotherapy. This, combined with her age, indicated to us that additional chemotherapy treatments after surgery would improve her outcomes. She then had a lumpectomy to remove the mass.”
She was scheduled for 4 rounds of chemotherapy, which lasted 3 months, during which she also received supportive care. This was followed by 21 radiation therapy treatments.
“Estrogen positive cancer is the most common type of breast cancer,” notes Dr. Madan. “Use of estrogen based oral contraceptives or hormonal therapies can increase a woman’s risk of developing it.”
Donna, a widow, was supported throughout her cancer journey by her twin sister Nancie, who had moved in with her after her husband died. “I cared for Nancie when she had health problems due to atrial fibrillation a few years back,” Donna says. “So, the tables were turned.”
She says she sailed through the treatments, a fact she attributes in large part to the doctors, nurses, and other hospital associates who cared for her. In addition to Dr. Madan and Dr. Wehner, her care team included radiation oncologist Andrew Satinsky, MD.
“I can’t say enough good things about the hospital’s Cancer Center. From the people at the front desk to the techs in radiology…everybody was wonderful. I even told Dr. Madan to tell his wife there is another woman who loves him too!”
On May 1, Donna had the honor of ringing the bell marking the end of her radiation treatment surrounded by all the caregivers she had gotten to know. “It was an uplifting experience,” she adds. “It meant the world to me to see how much they cared.”
Today, Donna is on endocrine therapy, an estrogen-blocking treatment that helps prevent cancer from coming back and will be for the next 5 years. “Endocrine therapy is one of the reasons women with early stage, estrogen-positive breast cancers have such a good prognosis,” Dr. Madan notes.
In the meantime, Donna remains cancer-free and is doing well. She is grateful to have her twin Nancie by her side and she is grateful for all the caregivers at MedStar Southern Maryland. “If you are going to have cancer, it’s a wonderful place to go…they have so much love.”