BY AMBER SMITH
Laurie Gildea’s husband, Kevin does the research. She goes with her gut.
So when a routine mammogram in May 2017 found a suspicious lesion, and when a subsequent biopsy revealed breast cancer, Gildea suddenly needed a surgeon with breast cancer expertise.
“I have to feel confident with the people I’m with,” she says. As soon as she met Lisa Lai, MD, and Prashant Upadhyaya, MD, and the nurses and staff at the Upstate Cancer Center, Gildea recalls, “I immediately felt the connection.”
The Gildeas live in Binghamton. Laurie is a teacher’s aide. Kevin is a systems engineer.
The doctors’ credentials and experience impressed Gildea’s husband. Both are board-certified surgeons who frequently work together at Upstate. Lai completed her surgery residency in 2015. Upadhyaya finished his surgery residency in 2010 and then his plastic surgery residency in 2013.
The news of cancer that Gildea got after her mammogram was a surprise. Having survived so many previous medical tribulations – including a lung infection in 2001 that led to a partial lung removal – “I basically thought I’ve gone through enough in my life,” she says.
Gildea’s lung surgeon, Leslie Kohman, MD, helped arrange the biopsy and put her in touch with the two surgeons.
Her breast cancer was considered stage 1. It was small and had not spread from the breast. She did not require chemotherapy or radiation treatments. She underwent a mastectomy in early July. After her body heals, Upadhyaya would insert Gildea’s new implant.
The Gildeas are happy to travel to Syracuse to see the Upstate doctors.
“It’s really not that far,” Gildea says. “And for the care I’m given, it’s so worth the drive.”
Breast cancer stages
The stage of a breast cancer helps determine treatment options and a patient’s survival outlook.
Doctors determine the stage based on the size of the tumor, whether lymph nodes are involved and whether cancer has spread elsewhere in the body.
Ductal carcinoma in situ, for instance, is considered stage zero. It is small and contained in the milk ducts of the breast.
Stages I and II are early breast cancers with tumors of various sizes that may involve one or two lymph nodes.
Stages II and III are locally advanced breast cancers, meaning the tumors are larger and/or the cancers may involve up to two lymph nodes.
Stage IV is metastatic breast cancer, which means it has spread to other parts of the body.
This article appears in the fall 2017 issue of Cancer Care magazine.