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SAVI Sister - Alice S.

Alice S.

Retired USAF/Homemaker
Hermiston, OR
Treated with SAVI – January/February 2011

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My small tumor showed up on a routine annual mammogram about seven weeks after I’d undergone a partial hysterectomy. I felt no lump or mass, but the tumor was very close to the chest wall. My primary care provider at the VA clinic in Walla Walla, Washington referred me for a consult with Dr. Laurie Evans, a breast surgeon in Pasco, Washington. Dr. Evans promptly scheduled a lumpectomy/biopsy. She came to my room after the lumpectomy to let me know the tumor was malignant, but it was small and appeared to be very treatable. That was the day after my 54th birthday, and I remember thinking that my mother had died of cancer at 54.

We needed to wait for pathology results before deciding on the full course of treatment, but Dr. Evans was very optimistic about my prognosis. A couple weeks after the lumpectomy, she re-excised the cavity and did a sentinel node biopsy to determine that the cancer was confined to the breast. She told me about partial breast radiation then and said I may be a good candidate for the 5-day SAVI, as an alternative to 33 treatments of whole breast radiation; and she set me up for an appointment with Dr. Sheila Rege, the radiation oncologist at Tri-Cities Cancer Center in Kennewick, WA. I must say my doctors are the very best and SAVI came highly recommended.

For me, there were two big benefits that swayed my decision in favor of SAVI. Since my tumor was so deep and close to the chest wall, I was concerned about radiation in areas that didn’t need it. I wanted less chance of collateral damage to other organs and my ribs from radiation. Also, I had a 30+ mile drive one way over a small mountain pass for treatment, and it was the end of January when the SAVI was implanted. Winter driving for 33 treatments of standard radiation was not appealing.

I felt no pain during the insertion of the SAVI. Since my cavity was close to the chest wall, there was a little pressure when I moved a certain way, but it was not uncomfortable enough to use the prescribed pain medication. I slept in a recliner after the first night because it was more comfortable and I moved around less in the recliner. Even with sleeping in the recliner, my energy level was fine and I did all my own driving for the treatments. The treatments themselves were painless.
Removal of the SAVI was a non-event and the incision was covered with steri-strips and a light dressing. Healing was fairly quick with no complications. Every time I have a breast exam, my medical oncologist comments on what a small “dent” I have from the lumpectomy. There’s hardly any disfigurement at all, with almost invisible scarring from the whole experience.

Thanks to SAVI and the excellent medical care from Dr. Evans and Dr. Rege, my husband and I always say that I had a “touch of breast cancer.” I’d like to see this technology available in more small cities and rural areas so that more women could take advantage of it and be able to just get on with their lives after a diagnosis of breast cancer. Thanks to early detection, two top-notch doctors on my case and SAVI, breast cancer was not a horrible, life-altering diagnosis for me.