December 11, 2019
DCIS breast cancer survivor sees hope all around her
BY Craig Carson
Before starting breast cancer treatment near her home in Dallas, Brenda Scherer decided to get a second opinion at MD Anderson.
Looking back, she’s glad she did. If she’d stuck with the treatment plan her local medical team had recommended, she would have had the wrong treatment and surgery.
A DCIS breast cancer diagnosis
A kindergarten teacher at the time, Brenda had her annual mammogram during spring break 2017.
The technician noticed something unusual immediately, but Brenda wasn’t concerned.
“I have dense breasts and knew I had lumps, so I wasn’t worried,” she says.
A few days later, the radiologist called and reported that he’d found a suspicious spot. Brenda then had a breast biopsy.
Her medical team in Dallas diagnosed her with ductal carcinoma in situ, or DCIS, often called stage 0 breast cancer. They recommended a lumpectomy and radiation therapy.
At the advice of a close friend, Brenda decided to come to MD Anderson for a second opinion. She brought her mammogram and ultrasound scans with her.
New imaging changes breast cancer treatment plan
At MD Anderson, breast radiologist Monica Huang, M.D., noticed additional areas of concern in Brenda’s mammogram and ordered an MRI. The MRI revealed two more masses.
Deanna Lane, M.D., performed a biopsy that confirmed there was more breast cancer than originally thought. Brenda then met with breast surgical oncologist Henry Kuerer M.D., Ph.D., to discuss her surgery options.
Based on the new testing done at MD Anderson, Kuerer recommended a mastectomy, rather than Brenda’s original treatment plan. She would not need radiation therapy.
“If I had stayed in Dallas, I would have had the wrong surgery and treatment,” Brenda says. “They would have done a lumpectomy and radiation, and I still would’ve had those two other masses that would have grown and grown. Then I would’ve been in more trouble.”
Reconstructive surgery she felt comfortable with
Brenda then met with plastic surgeon Alexander Mericli, M.D., to discuss her reconstruction options.
At first, Mericli discussed a TRAM flap surgery, which uses skin and fat from the lower tummy area along with some abdominal muscles to reconstruct the breasts.
Brenda didn’t feel comfortable with that option, so she and her medical team decided on a skin-sparing total mastectomy.
On June 1, 2017, Dr. Kuerer performed her mastectomy. Immediately after the mastectomy, Mericli performed the reconstruction of her left breast, using an implant to rebuild her chest.
“They did a fabulous job,” Brenda says.
She had a speedy recovery after surgery with support from Kuerer’s team, especially advanced practice provider Hannah Bomar.
Brenda caught a cold during her recovery and developed a cough that aggravated her incision. She reported this online in MyChart, MD Anderson’s electronic medical record portal. Within a day, Bomar responded and got her a prescription for cough medicine.
“Even though my issue wasn’t directly related to my cancer treatment, Hannah made sure I was taken care of. She was great, and so was everyone, really,” says Brenda, who has had no evidence of disease since her surgery in June 2017.
Hope makes a difference
Brenda returns to MD Anderson’s breast cancer survivorship clinic yearly for her checkup. She schedules her appointment during the holiday season so she can see the wreaths on the skybridge made by MD Anderson employees. Brenda also returns each November to participate in the Boot Walk to End Cancer, a 1.2-mile walk through the Texas Medical Center that raises money to support MD Anderson’s mission to end cancer.
“I love the Boot Walk and the holiday wreaths. When I see the faces of the people here, I see hope,” Brenda says. “And hope is the most important thing that a person with cancer can have.”
Request an appointment at MD Anderson online or by calling 1-877-632-6789.
Hope is the most important thing.