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Grandmother Credits CHS Doctors for Saving Her Life

May 9th, 2019

Patricia “Pat” Carlson — a mom of two and grandmother of five — has a lot to celebrate this Mother’s Day: Her husband of 51 years, Eric; daughters, Courtney and Candace; son-in-laws, Michael and Jack; five grandkids, Evan, Eric, Madeline, Lauren and Mathew; and being cancer free!

Yesterday, Pat and her family met the medical teams from Mercy Medical Center and St. Catherine of Siena Medical Center, both members of Catholic Health Services, who are responsible for uncovering her hard-to-find breast cancer that went undetected for nearly 15 years. That was possible thanks to the relationship between Mercy and St. Catherine, to the skilled staff at both hospitals and because of the access to LumaGem® Molecular Breast Imaging (MBI) technology, a secondary screening modality that uncovers 400 % more invasive cancers than a digital mammography alone.

Today, Pat Carlson is in remission and looking forward to spending Mother’s Day with her family.

“I’m health, I’m happy and my family is overjoyed. It’s a wonderful thing. And hopefully other men and women that cannot have MRIs can use this technology to find cancers in their bodies. That’s the best gift,” said Pat.

In 2018, Pat visited her dermatologist for a routine skin cancer check, where the doctor uncovered a lump on her neck. She visited her oncologists (she had cancer in the past) and got CT and PT scans, which showed a focal FDG uptake in her left axillary lymph nodes, suspicious for malignancy. Since, in most cases, the uptake is breast cancer she was referred to Jana Deitch, MD, medical director of Breast Health at St. Catherine’s for further work of her PET CT findings.

Dr. Deitch biopsied Pat’s left axillary lymph nodes, which revealed metastatic adenocarcinoma; however, the primary site of the cancer was not determined and Pat’s breast imaging did not show any suspicious lesions of her metastatic cancer. Pat could not have a MRI, which could have potentially provided further clarity, as it would have interrupted her pacemaker. That’s when Dr. Deitch reached out to Conellia Ha, MD, director of radiology at Mercy, and requested a MBI scan. Mercy is one of about two dozen hospital in the U.S. that offer this technology and the only one in New York.

After Dr. Ha performed the MBI scan, Pat finally got some answers. While it wasn’t the diagnosis she, and her family, had hoped for — cancer — thanks to the MBI, and the medical teams at Mercy and St. Catherine, Pat was able to detect the cancer early — at stage 2.

“I’m excited that we have a tool, a weapon, that’s going to help find these things that other people may not be able to,” said Dr. Ha.

The MBI revealed a small area of increased activity in the left breast and a target evaluation demonstrated a small cluster of stable microcalcifications. Although the calcifications were unchanged based on the MBI findings, a biopsy was performed and it revealed that that was the primary site of the breast cancer.

“Had we not had this technology (MBI), the next step would have been mastectomy, because there was a cancer somewhere in her breasts. And we couldn’t just leave cancer in there because we couldn’t find it,” said Dr. Deitch.

In January 2019, Pat went back to Dr. Deitch who performed a left partial mastectomy and axillary node dissection. Had they not been able to find the cancer, a full mastectomy would have had to been performed. 

MBI technology costs the patient around $450 and is not always covered. The Carlson family says to them, it’s priceless.

Mercy Medical Center recently won a a Pink Aid grant, to support breast health services for the uninsured and underinsured on Long Island. This year’s grant, for $30K, supports complimentary breast cancer screenings, breast biopsies, secondary screenings like the MBI ­— an advanced screening for women with dense breasts — and more.

MBI offers early detection and increased breast cancer diagnosis for women with dense breast tissue and whose cancers weren’t detected by a routine mammogram. Late last month, the FDA proposed a rule to notify women with dense breasts about their increased cancer risk. The proposal will update mammography regulations for the first time in two decades. At Mercy, those screenings have been in place since 2013. Mercy is also the only hospital on Long Island to offer VolparaDensity™ — which supplies an objective measure of breast density. This helps when determining if you need a secondary screening or not.

MBI has proven to be as effective, or more, as a secondary screening method compared to full-field ultrasound or MRI with far fewer false positives. Clinical research shows use of MBI reduces the need for tissue biopsies by 50 percent compared to other modalities. MBI is also more comfortable and better tolerated by most patients than conventional mammography or MRI.

MBI was donated to Mercy by the Friends of Mercy Medical Center, an organization of men dedicated to volunteering their time and efforts to raise funds for the advancement of medical and surgical care for the patients at Mercy.

For more information call, 516-62-MERCY/516-626-3729 or visit www.mercymedicalcenter.chsli.org.

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As seen in the news:

Fios 1 News: Survivors Thank Doctors in Rockville Centre

News 12: New imaging tech catches Patchogue grandmother's breast cancer

CBS NY (Channel 2): Breast Cancer Survivor Thanks Doctors, Credits MBI At Mercy Medical Center For Helping Save Her Life 

Long Island Herald: Mercy Medical Center detects 'hard-to-find' breast cancer

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