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Meet Rachel: Advanced breast screening saved her life

March 07, 2017

Meet: Rachel Blackburn

“Everyone’s cancer story is different. But when cancer goes undetected, the end of the story is always the same,” says Dayton-area native, Rachel Blackburn.

Unfortunately, Rachel knows all too well the toll cancer can take.

“I lost my mom in June 2016 to Large B-cell Lymphoma,” says Rachel. “My father passed away in 2001 from Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma and my mother's half-sisters both had breast cancer—one was successfully treated, the other lost her life to it.”

Before Rachel turned 40, her physician found a small lump in Rachel’s breast during an annual wellness exam. “It ended up being nothing but I began receiving yearly mammograms at that point as a preventative measure,” says Rachel.

It was one of those screening mammograms that helped save Rachel’s life. After a mammogram revealed a mass, Rachel’s doctor ordered a biopsy of the tumor. It was cancer.

“It totally caught me off guard,” says Rachel. “I hadn't felt anything and my doctor hadn't either, so I wasn't really expecting the news at all.”

Rachel was diagnosed with Stage 2a invasive ductal carcinoma, a cancer that neither she nor her doctor could detect through physical exams because of its location, and she began her treatment under the guidance of Kettering Health Network radiation and medical oncologists.

Kettering Health Network continues to implement the most advanced preventative and screening measures, including genetic testing for hereditary and familial cancers. All Kettering Physician Network OB/GYN and primary care physicians, and many Kettering Health Network affiliated physicians, are part of the Transforming Risk Assessment in Cancer (TRAC) program, which screens patients for 28 genes associated with eight types of cancers including breast, ovarian, pancreatic, and colon.

In 2017 TRAC is entering its second phase, TRAC II, in which all patients who receive a screening mammogram at a Kettering Breast Evaluation Center will also be included in the cancer risk assessment program.

Having a group of doctors who utilize the most advanced technologies made Rachel confident in her treatment team. “Being diagnosed with cancer is very scary, but my doctors and their entire teams were so supportive and caring,” Rachel says. “It eased my fear of the unknown and made the process much less stressful and easier to get through.”

In full remission today, Rachel works for a commercial real estate firm while pursuing a degree in business management. “Juggling work and school have become the norm for me, but I always find time to spend with my family, and I’ve learned to appreciate the little things more! Reading the Sunday paper, drinking my morning coffee, watching the sunrise—all of those things are gifts of another day,” she says. “If it weren’t for the team of doctors at Kettering, I wouldn’t have these moments that are so important.”

Schedule a mammogram today. Call (937) 299-0099 or visit ketteringhealth.org/breasthealth