The Power of Preventive Tests

Beverly Campbell appreciates the care and support she received from Dr. Ehsan Ghods (left) and Dr. Jason Marengo. She’s holding the heart pillow and thank you note she received from the cancer center staff.

Beverly Campbell had no sign or a single symptom to indicate a cancer was developing within her left breast. “I had no lumps, no bumps, nothing. And, no family history, either,” said the 58-year-old Fairfield resident.

But a routine visit to her primary care physician, Ehsan Ghods, D.O., changed all that. “I owe my life to him,” she said, “because he always insists on those annual exams. After my visit with him in October last year, he reminded me I was due for a mammogram. He never lets you leave the office without checking to see what annual exams you need.”

“Preventive exams are an important part of staying healthy and I encourage my patients to stay current with them,” Dr. Ghods said. “But, I also try to listen to my patients to hear if there are barriers to accomplishing this, such as transportation issues, a psychological resistance or fear, or maybe a cultural barrier. Some patients also have the ‘if it’s not broke, don’t fix it’ view.”

Not Beverly, however.

She dutifully made the mammogram appointment for late October and was called back for a repeat exam, as the technician had found a shadow. The shadow revealed further follow-up was necessary, so she was then scheduled for another mammogram. On her way home from the second exam she received a call that indicated she needed a biopsy.

The wire-guided biopsy was performed in Vacaville on Nov. 5, under the direction of Jason Marengo, M.D., surgical oncologist.

If Beverly’s lump had gone undiagnosed, she could have had a different outcome. Thankfully, the cancer was caught early.

—Ehsan Ghods, D.O.

Wire-guided biopsies are used to diagnose abnormalities that can’t be felt, but can be seen on mammograms. It’s an outpatient procedure, and is performed in two steps on the same day. First, the breast is numbed with local anesthetic. A needle is inserted and a small wire threaded through the needle is placed near the abnormal tissue.

A mammogram is performed to assure the wire has been placed accurately, and a portion of the abnormality is then surgically removed.

Just five days later, Beverly—accompanied by her daughter and a friend who is also a cancer survivor—met with Dr. Marengo to learn her tumor was Early Stage 1a, a non-aggressive but hormone-based cancer.

Things moved quickly from there, she recalled. Surgery to remove what remained of the tumor, as well as some lymph nodes, was scheduled for Dec. 16, and three weeks of radiation treatment were begun in late January.

“It all went so fast, and so well, I was able to take a pre-planned cruise in March, right after my radiation treatments ended,” Beverly said. “Dr. Marengo and his staff gave me confidence from the very first visit. He explained everything to me thoroughly and in great detail. When I woke up from the surgery, I was holding a pastel flowered heart-shaped pillow with a note attached. It said, ‘Thank you for entrusting your care with us. We hope you have a speedy recovery,’ and was signed by the staff. This was so comforting to me, and gave me a boost of encouragement that I truly needed at that moment.

“I look at my surgical incisions today and I see nothing but beauty,” Beverly continued. “Dr. Marengo did such amazing work. And, my recovery has been amazingly speedy.”

Dr. Ghods believes Beverly’s story sends a great message to those who put off following through with regular exams. “If Beverly’s lump had gone undiagnosed, she could have had a different outcome. Thankfully, the cancer was caught early. Maybe her story is the nudge some people need to see that preventive exams actually have some validity to them.”

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