Breast Cancer Symptoms

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Root, 62, lives in Toms River with her husband, Kevin. She is an assistant registrar at Ocean County College, and he works for Verizon. They have three children, three grandchildren and “two more on the way,” she says. She was diagnosed in September 2012 from a routine mammogram taken at the Jacqueline M. Wilentz Breast Center at Monmouth Medical Center. “The next day I got the call, and it was a whirlwind after that,” she says. Her doctor told her they could get her right in for further testing so she could still go to Disney World. Root asked the doctor not to tell her what stage her cancer was. “I didn’t want preconceived notions of where this would take me,” she says. “I just told them, take care of it.”

She later learned she was Stage 2B and she opted for a double mastectomy, even though the cancer was in one breast and she did not have any family history of the disease, nor any other risk factors. “I know myself, and I would not want to have to go through the wait for that call again,” she says.

Her surgery was scheduled that November. Then, Hurricane Sandy hit. The hospital was without power and her surgery was postponed for a couple weeks. “The wait was nerve wracking,” she admits. But it went well, and what followed was chemotherapy and radiation treatments. Root’s first chemo treatment was on Christmas Eve 2012, and she admits she was “terrified. But there was another woman near me who looked great, and she said, ‘I have 25 people coming for dinner tonight, let’s hurry this up.’ That was very helpful. I thought, look at her, treating it like a minor annoyance. I tried to carry that attitude too.”

Root tolerated the treatments very well. “I shaved my head in anticipation, and I might have jumped the gun there,” she says. When her treatments were done, she also had breast reconstruction surgery. Throughout her many treatments, she says, all of the doctors, nurses and staff treated her with courtesy and respect. “I give all credit to the staff at Monmouth. They not only treated me physically, they helped me emotionally and mentally as well. Their attitude was always that they would take care of it.” When she forgot about a scheduled bone density test and arrived a couple of hours late, “it was no big deal. They didn’t seem annoyed. I thought that was wonderful.”

Root had taken up running before her diagnosis (“I thought I should get healthy—kind of ironic,” she says) and since her recovery she has completed several 10K races, including the Seaside Semper Five in Seaside Heights and two others at—you guessed it—Disney World.

THE MOST COMMON SYMPTOM of breast cancer is a new lump or mass. A painless, hard mass that has irregular edges is more likely to be cancer, but breast cancers can be tender, soft or rounded. It is important to have any new breast mass, lump or breast change checked by a healthcare professional experienced in diagnosing breast diseases. Contact the Jacqueline M. Wilentz Breast Center at Monmouth Medical Center to schedule an appointment. Other possible symptoms of breast cancer include:

  • Swelling of all or part of a breast (even if no distinct lump is felt)
  • Skin irritation or dimpling (sometimes looking like an orange peel)
  • Breast or nipple pain
  • Nipple retraction (turning inward)
  • Redness, scaliness, or thickening of the nipple or breast skin
  • Nipple discharge (other than breast milk)
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