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Published on October 07, 2014

‘I’ve got a lot of life ahead of me’

Breast Self-Exam Leads to Cancer Diagnosis for Mokena Woman

Lynne Marcotte, a mammographer at Palos Community Hospital,shares her story to help encourage other women to have yearly mammograms and monthly self-exams.

3D Mammography™ at Palos
Early detection is key in the fight against breast cancer, and Palos Community Hospital's Women's Center offers 3D Mammography™ to help screen for the disease at more treatable stages.

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Survive & Thrive: Cancer Survivors Day Out
At Palos, we recognize that survivorship begins the day of diagnosis and continues beyond the last treatment in an effort to help cancer survivors maximize their quality of life.

Join us for a special event, Saturday, November 1, focused on wellness, activity and support.

Learn about survivorship, moving forward and how those diagnosed with cancer cope with their new lives in different ways.

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For the past 15 years, Lynne Marcotte has made a career of walking women through breast imaging as a mammographer at Palos Community Hospital, but that didn’t lessen the shock of her own breast cancer diagnosis.

“I should be exempt from this because this is what I do,” she laughed. “But we know that’s not the case.”

On October 22, 2013, Lynne underwent a bilateral mastectomy after being diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma. This type of cancer starts in a milk duct of the breast and its invasive component allows it to grow outside the duct  and possibly metastasize to other parts of the body through the lymphatic system or blood stream, according to the American Cancer Society.

The path to diagnosis

Lynne, now 44, a mother of three children, is a firm believer in yearly mammograms. Over the years, her tests have always shown normal readings, even her last mammogram in February 2013. But, a few months later that all changed. 

“I had just had a mammogram and nothing was seen, but come September, I felt something I didn’t feel before,” explains Lynne, who found her lump during a breast self-exam. “When I first felt it, I thought it was just a cyst. But having a bit more knowledge being that this is my job, I knew it could be cancer.”

Lynne’s emotions ran the gamut, from anger to sadness and fright to fight. “My first thought was of my two daughters. I was worrying about them and their health,” she says. “You get mad, but you don’t let it take over your life. You can’t. I’m too young; I’ve got a lot of life ahead of me.”

After undergoing an ultrasound biopsy to remove tissue from the area of concern, she met with Kanesha Bryant, M.D., a board-certified breast surgeon who works with Palos Medical Group, who confirmed the diagnosis and walked Lynne through her treatment options.

"If a woman finds a breast lump or gets the call that she's had an abnormal mammogram, she naturally may feel anxious and concerned, but life doesn't stop," says Dr. Bryant. "It’s my responsibility to help alleviate their concerns by empowering patients with information and educating them so that they can become an active member of their care team."

Lynne had surgical options but chose to have a bilateral mastectomy.

“I could have had a lumpectomy, but I didn’t want to have to go through this anymore,” she says. “I know how hard it is sometimes for women to keep coming back year after year.”

Moving forward

The good news is Lynne’s cancer was caught early and she didn’t need to go through chemotherapy or radiation. She’s now cancer free, but there’s still a part of her that worries.

“To be honest, if you have cancer and you’re told you are OK, there’s still that little part in the back of your mind that always wonders if it’s going to come back. Even though I had a mastectomy, you worry.”

She said the support she received from Lisa Gravitt, RN, BSN, OCN, CBCN, and Deborah Vondrak, RN, BSN, OCN, breast health patient navigators at Palos, was “phenomenal. They are like angels.” Lynne knows she’s lucky because she has the support of her coworkers at the Women’s Center, but that same support is available to any woman who seeks the breast health services at a Palos Community Hospital facility. 

The breast health patient navigators at Palos help patients to be able to focus on healing because they’re not left wondering about next steps. More importantly, they take comfort in knowing they’re not alone and that an advocate is there to help guide them every step of the way. 

Lynne says staying optimistic helped with her recovery. “My main objective was to be positive. I always had a smile on my face. You have to remember there’s always someone worse off than you.”

The American Cancer Society encourages self-exams as a complement to mammograms. It is important for women to perform self-exams, starting in their 20s, so they are aware of any noticeable changes and can report those to a health care provider. However, self-exams should not replace mammograms. The ACS recommends that women 40 or older receive yearly mammograms. These annual screenings help detect cancers in the early stages, leading to more successful treatment plans. The ACS reports breast cancer deaths decreased by 34 percent from 1990 to 2010. The decline, which has been faster among women younger than 50, is attributed to both the improvements in breast cancer treatment and early detection.

Lynne talks about her experience to help encourage other women to schedule yearly mammograms and complete monthly self-exams, which helped save her life.

“Make sure you do them. Make sure you never blow anything off. If it doesn’t feel right, make sure you contact your doctor. Cancer does not discriminate. It doesn’t care what your age is. I personally know people from age 30 to 90 who have been diagnosed with breast cancer. That’s a big window,” she says. “I don’t think it should be taken lightly. People need to take care of themselves, especially women. Sometimes we forget because we are so busy taking care of others.”