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Stacy's story: Part IV

Written by Community Health Network on 6/24/2014 8:00:00 AM

This is the final post in a four-part blog series. Stacy Costa is a breast cancer survivor who was treated at Community Cancer Care Center. One year into survivorship, she credits Dr. Robert Goulet and her breast cancer team for her survival.

“I thought I knew what to expect with breast cancer," said Costa. "As an 18-year-old girl my aunt’s breast cancer experience was very vivid. I knew about surgery, chemotherapy and that you typically lost your hair."

Costa expected to be prepared for the side effects of breast cancer, but she wasn't. When she fit began to lose her hair, it was very emotional.

“I thought the hair loss wouldn’t matter, but it did," said Costa. "As I showered, bits of my hair, or what was left of it, washed away. But it didn’t wash off of me easily.”

Costa decided to take control and shave her head.

In doing so, she was surprised to find that her husband, little boy and brother shaved their heads too - a show of support and solidarity.

“It was a really cool moment when my little boy Aaron said he wanted to look like me,” said Costa. “It really touched me that my older brother shaved his head too, and when asked at work (jokingly) ‘Why – do you have cancer?’ His reply was no, my sister does. He’s a great big brother and that strength is my strength.”

Costa didn’t hide or take a break from work after she shaved her head. She did just the opposite and chose to sport a new hats or bandanas.

But even now, as a survivor, Costa can still see the side effects of treatment.

“I could control the pain from the treatments and recovery process, but I couldn’t control the fact that my hair came back curlier and grayer, or that my finger nails and toenails grow weirdly now,” said Costa. “I knew we were getting rid of the bad cancer cells, but other little things changed too."

She said that have to get comfortable with change and find the beauty and strength within yourself.

Costa said, "You have to say, 'It’s all about me', and make that your health the focus.”

To read more about Costa's journey with cancer and survivorship, see our previous blog posts. 


Stacy's story: Part II

Written by Community Health Network on 6/17/2014 8:00:00 AM

This is the second post in a four-part blog series. Stacy Costa is a breast cancer survivor who was treated at Community Regional Cancer Care Center. One year into survivorship, she credits Dr. Robert Goulet and her breast cancer team for her survival.

Breast cancer care takes a full team of support at Community

Community Cancer Care provides breast health navigators to patients who are diagnosed with breast cancer. Breast health navigators are available to answer questions concerning breast health, provide education and support, coordinate care as needed, and prepare breast cancer patients for survivors

“I had three nurse navigators, Natalie, Sharlee and Tracy,” said Costa. “I think I’ll be seeing Dr. Goulet, Dr. Walling and the wonderful ladies of my breast care team on and off for the rest of my life.”

Breast health navigators provide continuity for patients and their families throughout their healthcare experience, during what can be a very stressful time in a woman’s life.

“Natalie calmed me down when I first learned of my diagnosis and had so many decisions to make,” said Costa. “I had a lot of questions and concerns. She tackled each one and we got answers together. It didn’t matter how crazy the question was, she delivered the answers in ways that I could manage them.”

Breast health navigators also provide assistance with appointments, surgery preparations and at treatments. continue reading ...


Stacy's story: Part I

Written by Community Health Network on 6/10/2014 7:00:00 AM

“Is there anything I can do to help you? Maybe take the kids out for a few hours?” Those are the types of things that can really help. What you don’t want to say to a (breast) cancer patient is “How are you feeling today?”

When Stacy Costa was 18 and her aunt, age 31, was diagnosed with breast cancer, she remembers thinking to herself that she was going to get cancer too.

“It was just a feeling because four people on my mom’s side had cancer,” said Costa.

Knowing her family history, Costa stayed conscious of her breast health and very self-aware of what felt normal and what did not. Part of that included performing routine self-exams. It was one of those routine self-exams that told her a lump in her breast was different and it shouldn’t hurt to touch. She acted quickly and called her family doctor.

It started with an ultrasound and moved onto the radiology department where she had a mammogram screening and was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Upon receiving the diagnosis Costa reached out to her mother, a former nurse and pharmaceutical representative, who put her in touch with Community Breast Care Center.

“I made the call to Community and got in quickly,” said Costa. “I asked my mom to come with me, not so much because she was my mom, but because she could translate all the medical-speak. But Dr. Goulet (breast surgeon) spoke to me so plainly that I didn’t need to worry. He was so good at giving me all the information and letting me take time to make decisions.”

Costa said she wasn’t surprised by her diagnosis and that she would need surgery and chemotherapy. But she did wonder if the family history was a factor, so Dr. Goulet did a gene test. continue reading ...


Breast cancer prevention should start early

Written by Community Health Network on 3/26/2014 2:15:00 PM

Take steps now to prevent breast cancer

An article published in The Cancer Journal for Clinicians, Wednesday, states that half of breast cancers in the U.S. might be avoided if women adopted healthier lifestyles sooner in life, and the highest-risk women took preventive drugs like tamoxifen.

The article reviews breast cancer primary prevention strategies that are applicable to all women, discusses the underutilization of chemoprevention in high-risk women, highlights the additional advances that could be made by including young women in prevention efforts.

"This article is re-stating many things we have known for some time regarding breast cancer prevention," said Dr. Robert Goulet, breast surgeon and MD Anderson certified physician with Community Physician Network. "However, I agree that we don’t place enough emphasis on preventive strategies at all ages."

Goulet states that there are simple lifestyle modifications that women should make to decrease their risk.

"There is irrefutable evidence that, through study of women over decades, as little as 30 minutes of vigorous exercise three times a week leads to significant reduction in breast cancer risk," he said. "Weight control has also been implicated, and I think that goes hand in hand with exercise strategy."

A healthy diet with emphasis on trying to minimize weight gain is also incredibly important, and that includes a decrease in alcohol consumption.

Robert J. Goulet, breast cancer specialist"There are recent studies that clearly demonstrate that women who drink as little as one ounce of alcohol at least three times a week have an increased risk of developing breast cancer," said Goulet. "The impact of exposure to carcinogens such as alcohol begin at we believe a very early age. So recognition of the fact that you have the ability to change risk has to occur at a younger age."

With respect to drugs such as tamoxifen and raloxifene, Goulet states that there is a fair amount of controversy regarding the use of those drugs. continue reading ...


Cancer answers: Am I at high risk for breast cancer?

Written by Community Health Network on 2/13/2014 1:15:00 PM

There's a lot of chatter in the news about whether or not mammograms are useful at detecting breast cancer. A recent study by the British Medical Journal reported that screening mammograms could lead to overdiagnosis and treatment. We know you have questions, so we asked our experts to weigh in.

“Personalized medicine and empowering women with the right information is what we do,” said Robert J. Goulet, M.D., FACS, Community Breast Care specialist and an MD Anderson Cancer Network® certified physician. “Breast cancers grow slowly, and that gives women the opportunity to become well informed and not make rash decisions. That’s not to say that we don’t react quickly to, we do, as attested by our 24-hour appointment response to each call we receive from a patient at Community.” 

Many breast cancers are actually detected by mammograms before any symptoms appear and can help women who are diagnosed early increase their risk of survival. So, our physicians recommend asking yourself five questions to start to determine your cancer risk and get to know symptoms of breast cancer.

  1. Do you have a history of radiation treatment to the chest for any medical condition? 
  2. Do you have a genetic mutation linked to breast cancer? Gene abnormalities include BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes, or the syndromes Li-Fraumeni, CDH1, Cowden’s, or Bannayan-Riley-Ruvalcaba. 
  3. Do you have a history of lobular neoplasia (LCIS) or atypical ductal Hyperplasia (ADH)? Also, called LCIS, this condition is not considered breast cancer, but a risk factor. LCIS is an area of abnormal cell growth in the lobules (the milk-producing glands at the end of breast ducts) that begins in the breast tissue and remains in the lobule and does not spread. 
  4. Do you have a family history of breast cancer? And if so, were these women diagnosed before the age of 50? 
  5. Know your reproduction and menstrual history. Did you begin your period before the age of 12, start menopause after the age of 55, have your first-full term pregnancy after the age of 30, or never had a full-term pregnancy or are obese after menopause? 
There are other risk factors including regular alcohol consumption, long-term use of supplemental estrogen and progestin menopausal hormone therapies. Postmenopausal women who are obese but have not used hormone therapy are also at high risk.

After answering these five questions, you can actually calculate your risk of developing breast cancer using the American Cancer Society's calculator. The NCI breast cancer risk calculator and other online surveys are a tool to getting better informed, but Community Breast Care specialists say it’s just a starting point.

“These are exciting times for breast cancer diagnosis and treatment,” said Dr. Goulet. “We have the latest, cutting-edge tests onsite including second generation genetic testing. It’s truly ‘STAR WARS' medicine and we have the ability to make a confident diagnosis within 48-72 hours. Now, add our affiliation with the MD Anderson Cancer Network™ and patients are getting an expertise in breast care like none before." continue reading ...


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To make an appointment with an MD Anderson Cancer Network® certified physician at Community, call 800-777-7775 today!



Meet our nurse navigators

When it comes to your fight against cancer, they've got your back. Our nurse navigators act as a guide, resource, advocate and educator for newly diagnosed cancer patients and their families. Learn more here.


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