A Crucial Catch at the Right Time

An early diagnosis is critical for surviving breast cancer – just ask Samantha Hardisty

Samantha and Andy Hardisty

Samantha Hardisty has dealt with polycystic ovary syndrome, or PCOS, for years. PCOS is a hormone disorder that causes enlarged ovaries with cysts on the outer edges.

So when a breast lump was discovered during her annual exam last year, Samantha didn't get overly excited about it, especially since she had no family history of breast cancer.

Diagnosis in the nick of time

"I had gone for my well-woman appointment the year before, and everything was fine," said Samantha, 30, of Gladstone, Missouri.

During this year's office visit, Samantha asked to have her breast cyst checked because she noticed it seemed larger. That's when her doctor suggested she get a mammogram. Her mammogram results indicated that Samantha needed further evaluation, including a biopsy. She met with a surgeon at another healthcare facility in June 2017. He performed a lumpectomy and removed four lymph nodes. Test results revealed she had stage II, ER+/PR+/HER2+ cancer and one affected lymph node.

Looking for answers

khan-qamar-KS28779After her initial surgery, Samantha sought a second opinion for her treatment with Qamar Khan, MD, medical oncologist for The University of Kansas Cancer Center. Dr. Khan recommended the treatment plan Samantha selected. "I immediately felt like Dr. Khan and the people at The University of Kansas Cancer Center were attentive and provided me with all of the details I needed. They took it step by step, and I loved that! When you're first diagnosed with cancer, you have no idea what you're doing, but they were all compassionate and informative," said Samantha.

Dr. Khan stepped in to provide additional treatment to prevent the spread of future cancer cells during her lifetime. "Some cancer cells hide in other cells, dormant until circumstances are right for them to develop later," said Dr. Khan. "The cure rate with Samantha's form of cancer is 95 percent when adjuvant treatments (chemotherapy, radiation and Herceptin) follow surgery. She should never have to deal with breast cancer again."

Samantha is almost through her chemotherapy treatments (a series of six) and will start radiation for five weeks afterward. She will then receive Herceptin, which targets HER2 cells, for one year. 

The perfect crucial catch

"Samantha is the perfect example of a 'Crucial Catch' patient," said Dr. Khan. "When caught early, her type of cancer is curable. But, even just 10 years ago, this particular type of breast cancer was the most dreaded and aggressive for patients. But we now know how to target it and can offer a very high cure rate.” 

Dr. Khan credits Samantha for her positive attitude and optimism about her treatment and outcome. 

"I have so much support, it's hard not to be positive," said Samantha. "I come from a large Italian family – lots of cousins and relatives. And, I have a lot of friends. And even friends of friends and people I don't know have come forward with offers to help. It's hard not to be positive with all of that."

Chiefs Crucial Catch experience

Recently, Samantha and her husband, Andy, attended a Crucial Catch luncheon and Chiefs practice in addition to the Chiefs game they will attend October 15. Even though meeting Chiefs players and getting their autographs were a definite highlight, Samantha said meeting other patients with different types of cancer was the best part of the event.

"Some of these people have been dealing with cancer for years. They are inspiring. I even learned some of the Chiefs players have had cancer themselves. We are all touched by it in some way," said Samantha.

As with all treatments, individual patient results vary. It is important to discuss your treatment options with your healthcare provider.

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U.S. News and World Reports 2019-2020