Cancer Treatment Centers of America

Joan Dickens

Breast cancer - Invasive ductal carcinoma, grade 2

This testimonial includes a description of this patient’s actual medical results. Those results may not be typical or expected for the particular disease type described in this testimonial. You should not expect to experience these results.

View CTCA treatment results for breast cancer


My story

In 2007, I had a mammogram and an MRI that showed a growth on my right breast. I underwent surgery, which revealed the growth was benign. However, because of that incident, my doctor recommended having an MRI or mammogram every six months as a precautionary measure. In October 2011, I had an MRI and received a phone call from the surgeon who did the procedure in 2007.

The surgeon informed me I had cancer in the other breast. She told me I could have a lumpectomy, mastectomy or a double mastectomy, and said I should call her back when I had decided. I was glad someone had spotted the problem, but I was disturbed by the lack of sympathy or anything beyond the clinical and abrupt talk during that phone call.

Finding care

I had an online chat with a representative from Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA). I was airing my grievances about my interaction with the surgeon, and wanting to know if CTCA would be any different. The representative took my phone number, and I got a call from an Oncology Information Specialist. He spent two hours on the phone with me talking about what CTCA offered before he took my insurance information. That call left me with a sense of relief. Here was an organization where people went out of their way to express that they cared about you as a person and took the time to explain what was possible. I arranged to visit the CTCA hospital in Philadelphia for a consultation.

A friend of mine joined me for that consultation, stopping on our way to visit another friend of ours who had advanced stage ovarian cancer. My traveling companion is often skeptical when things sound too good to be true, and she felt this way about CTCA as we were making our way there. By the time we left two days later, she was shaking her head in disbelief. In tears, we both acknowledged that we wished our other friend had known about and had treated at CTCA.

The right treatment for me

My doctors at CTCA recommended that I receive intraoperative radiation therapy (IORT). With this approach, radiation is administered once during surgery.

My mother had a mastectomy in 1964, as did two of my aunts on her side of the family. None of them died from cancer. This family history was a major factor in figuring out the appropriate treatment for me. I also wanted something as minimally invasive as possible so I could get on with my life as soon as possible. The IORT procedure provided me that.

Yet there was still some unknown. Until the surgery was done, no one can say for sure how large the malignancy was. Fortunately, the tumor turned out to be just .47 cm, and I had a minimal number of lymph nodes removed (three).

The night after my surgery, I slept well. Hospitals are often noisy, but at CTCA, the nurse came to ask if I’d like the door closed and the lights out. After a good night’s rest, I was ready to go home the next day.

Another kind of treatment

In addition to the medical care, I also received wonderful treatment as a person at CTCA. My flight was late the night before surgery. I’d been scheduled for a Reiki treatment (I thought it would calm me down), but I arrived too late for my Reiki appointment. For some reason, I got very upset. I was nervous and emotional about the surgery. Just as I was falling apart, a reverend at CTCA came around the corner in the hallway and asked if I was OK. He sat with me for about half an hour. Once I’d calmed down, he asked if I wanted his company before the surgery, and I said, "Absolutely." The next morning he was there just as he’d said.

Reverend Barry wasn’t the only one to provide this kind of treatment. Aking Beverly, who was a scheduler at the time, was always able to help straighten out any difficulty I had with my schedule...even after normal scheduling hours were closed. We don’t always realize there are people looking out for patients’ needs. These two individuals exemplify the extent to which patients are considered at CTCA. They don’t just think compassion, they demonstrate it.

I am now a Cancer Fighters® Care Net volunteer because of the care and compassion I received from CTCA. I share my story with potential patients and encourage them to consider going to CTCA for a second opinion.

The fear of the unknown can be a great challenge when coping with a cancer diagnosis. But now I am through to the other side: survivorship. Last year I traveled to Russia, and I am much more active and living my life to its fullest. I look back and wonder where I would be now if I had not gone to CTCA.