Trusting her gut helped Michelle get her breast cancer diagnosis sooner

Trusting Her Gut Helped Michelle Get Her Breast Cancer Diagnosis Sooner

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Like most women, Michelle Stallone got her first mammogram when she turned 40. It was normal, which was what she expected with no family history of breast cancer, and she went on with her regular routine, working at the family business, raising her 9- and 13-year-old, and spending time with her husband of 16 years.

But about nine months after her screening mammogram, she noticed an indentation in her right breast. “My weight fluctuates, so I figured it might be related to that,” Michelle says. When the indentation was still there after four weeks, she made an appointment to see her OB/GYN at MedStar Montgomery Hospital Center, Gissel Sonnenbrot, CRNP, who sent her for a diagnostic mammogram and sonogram.

Those tests found abnormalities, so Michelle underwent a PET scan and breast biopsy. When she learned she had stage 2 breast cancer in her right breast, she made an appointment with Nora Sudarsan, DO, an oncologist hematologist at MedStar Georgetown Cancer Institute at MedStar Montgomery Medical Center. Dr. Sudarsan explained to Michelle and her husband that she had triple-negative breast cancer, a more aggressive type of the disease. Genetic testing found that she had a BRCA mutation, which increases the risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer.

“I was shocked,” Michelle remembers. “No one in my family had ever had breast cancer and I had no idea that I was at an increased risk. Dr. Sudarsan walked me and my husband through my diagnosis and treatment plan and I was ready to do whatever was needed to fight this.”

Michelle had 16 rounds of chemotherapy, then underwent a double mastectomy with reconstruction performed by MedStar Montgomery surgical oncologist Jennifer Son, MD, and Samer Jabbour, MD, breast and plastic surgeon. Once she had recovered, she had a laparoscopic hysterectomy to eliminate the risk of developing ovarian cancer in the future, a risk for women with a BRCA mutation.

“Throughout my diagnosis and treatment, I really appreciated that all the doctors were very open with me. They didn’t sugarcoat anything so I knew I was well informed and they had my back. Dr. Sudarsan was amazing and I felt very comfortable with her. She always had my best interests at heart.”

Michelle is cancer-free, back to her busy life, and grateful for the outcome of her treatment.

“If something seems out of the ordinary, trust your gut,” she says. “If I had waited until my next mammogram, my cancer could have spread and I would have been in a very different situation. It’s better to see your healthcare provider if anything seems off than assume it’s nothing and deal with the repercussions.”

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