Asking the right question: East TN woman glad she opted for tomosynthesis

From Parkwest Medical Center “Health & Lifestyles”

Patricia Buttram sat quietly and very still in a room at Parkwest Comprehensive Breast Center in June of 2013. 3-D mammography had revealed cancer in her left breast, and she was stunned.

Buttram had no family history of breast cancer, and she’d had no sign anything was wrong with her health except that she’d been a little tired lately. “Lord, no,” Buttram says. “No symptoms, my breasts didn’t hurt, and I was working every day.”

Patricia Buttram selected Dr. Willard Campbell for her breast cancer surgery. "He's an awesome doctor," she says.

Patricia Buttram selected Dr. Willard Campbell for her breast cancer surgery. “He’s an awesome doctor,” she says.

Breast cancer frequently carries no symptoms in its earliest stages, and that’s why early diagnosis is so important.

Buttram was especially fortunate because the breast center has a tool that can often detect a problem before a woman ever personally experiences cancer’s effects.

“A girl that I worked with came to Parkwest to get her mammogram,” Buttram says, “and she told me about this new machine that can detect cancer earlier.”

The machine Buttram had heard about uses tomosynthesis, and it takes detection a step above and beyond the traditional mammogram. “Tomosynthesis is 3-D digital mammography that gives a clearer picture of the breast, especially for women with dense breast tissue,” explains Parkwest radiologist Amanda Squires, MD.

The results of Buttram’s routine mammogram came back negative, but she decided to try tomosynthesis, just to be sure. The tomosynthesis picked up on a tiny tumor that turned out to be stage one breast cancer.

“Just think if I hadn’t had the 3-D,” Buttram says. “A year later I might be in stage three or four!”

Upon hearing the report, Buttram calmly asked what her next step should be. Surgery at Parkwest Medical Center was recommended, and Buttram was given a list of surgeons to choose from.

“I happened to see Dr. Campbell’s name on the list, and I said, ‘I want him,’ ” Buttram says. “He’s an awesome doctor.”

Buttram had undergone surgery at Parkwest in the past with Willard Campbell, MD, FACS, of Premier Surgical as her surgeon, and she had been impressed by his skill, his kindness and his faith.

After successful surgery, it was time for radiation treatments at Thompson Cancer Survival Center West. Because Buttram’s
cancer was so aggressive, treatment had to be just as intense as the disease was. She had 66 radiation treatments over the course of  about three months.

Now Buttram is being treated with chemotherapy, which will take a total of five years. “I’ve got one year and five months down,” Buttram says happily.

Battling cancer is hard, even with a positive attitude like Buttram’s. But one thing that keeps her moving forward each day is thinking how much worse it could have been. “Women, please just go and get your regular check up every year,” Buttram begs. “Don’t put it off, because you could be shortening your life.”

Tomosynthesis is not yet covered by all insurance plans. If it is not covered, the patient’s regular co-pay applies. Buttram says it was well worth it.

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