In partnership with our patients:
Living less than a mile away from Virginia Hospital Center, Jennifer Ryan knows the hospital well and had many positive experiences. Her daughter was born here, she took a prenatal yoga class, and used the Emergency Department. All of Jennifer’s doctors practice at the Hospital as well.
In June 2011, Jennifer went for a routine check up with her doctor. During the examination, her doctor noticed a lump on her left breast. At 39 years old, Jennifer was sent to the Imaging Center for a mammogram and ultrasound. Although the lump appeared to be a fatty deposit, Jennifer was referred for follow-up to the Reinsch Pierce Family Center for Breast Health, and Dr. Molly Sebastian preformed a biopsy of the area.
Jennifer received the news that she had a very rare breast tumor called Phyllodes. These types of tumors account for less than 1% of all breast tumors. The name refers to the way it grows in a leaf-like form. These tumors can be benign (not cancerous), malignant (cancerous) or borderline (in between noncancerous and cancerous).
Jennifer’s Phyllodes tumor was benign and appeared to be growing slowly. Jennifer underwent two surgeries to remove the tumor and tissue in the margins surrounding the area. The unusual shape of the tumor can make it very difficult to remove all of it. Since the tumor was benign she chose not to have a mastectomy.
In January of 2012, she felt another lump in the same breast and after testing, it was confirmed her Phyllodes tumor had returned. The biopsy revealed that the tumor was bigger, faster growing, and borderline, on its way to becoming cancerous. Dr. Sebastian, noting the aggressiveness of the tumor, recommended a “simple” mastectomy for Jennifer. A “simple” mastectomy involves removing the breast tissue but other tissue and lymph nodes are left intact. This procedure can be performed with Phyllodes because the tumors don’t affect the lymph nodes, a major concern with other breast cancers.
After her surgery, Jennifer began a course of radiation with Dr. Robert Hong of Virginia Hospital Center’s Department of Radiation Oncology. Jennifer was reassured and comforted by Dr. Hong’s expertise and research before her appointment. Since Phyllodes accounts for less than 1% of breast tumors, many doctors will not see a case during their career. Dr. Hong had previously treated two cases of Phyllodes and had done extensive research on the subject and Jennifer’s case. Jennifer was impressed by Dr. Hong’s straight forward and positive approach.
Jennifer’s treatment required 28 rounds of radiation to her chest wall. She was in treatment Monday through Friday and her cancer responded to radiation. Receiving treatment five days-a-week, Jennifer appreciated the kindness and the continuity of the staff. After completing her treatment, Jennifer waited 6 months to complete the last leg of the journey, breast reconstruction by Dr. Mazen Bedri of The Reinsch Pierce Family Center for Breast Health.
Jennifer used many resources within the hospital during her treatment. She was comforted by the Cancer Resource Center staff as well as healing massages at the Teal Center. Jennifer was impressed with the communication by all the doctors working on her case and their concern for her. “Having everyone in one place greatly reduced my stress, so I did not have to coordinate communication to my doctors about my case and my care,” she said. “I am thankful for their care, communication, and the kind nature of all who cared for me."