In April of 2019, Tammy Thomson was a young, active, healthy 30 year old woman; a wife and mother of two small children. As a kindergarten teacher she was finishing up the school year with her existing class and already planning for the next school year. It was to be an exciting year ahead, as Tammy’s own daughter would be joining her class as a student – a dream come true for them both.
During a routine breast exam at home, Tammy noted an abnormality. Though quite assured it wouldn’t be anything serious due to her age and overall good health, Tammy prudently booked an appointment with her family doctor to have it checked out.
Tammy’s family doctor sent her for a mammogram, an effective screening test to examine and diagnose breast tissue health and to detect breast cancer. No abnormalities were identified on the mammogram, so Tammy was sent for further test investigations over the next two months – 3 more mammograms, 2 biopsies and a galactogram. One of the biopsies showed a pea sized lump, which was determined to be benign. Despite these promising results, Tammy had a strong gut feeling that something was not right. She decided to seek one more opinion.
Tammy was referred by a friend to the specialized Breast Health Clinic at Jim Pattison Outpatient Care and Surgery Centre in Surrey. Specifically, she was encouraged to book an appointment with Dr. Rhonda Janzen, a surgeon at the Breast Health Clinic.
In September 2019 she met with Dr. Janzen who, after examining Tammy, immediately agreed that something was amiss. Tammy was sent for an MRI, which identified a fist-size mass of breast cancer. Shortly thereafter, in October of 2019, she underwent surgery for a double mastectomy. Her breast cancer was aggressive; it had continued to grow during the three weeks between MRI and surgery.
A challenge for existing screening technology can sometimes be identifying abnormalities in patients with dense breast tissue. Tammy Thomson was one of these patients. Though traditional digital mammography remains one of the most advanced tools available for detecting breast cancer, a new 3D mammography called Tomosynthesis provides greater detection of abnormalities hidden in dense breast tissue.
With incredible donor support, Surrey Hospitals Foundation was able to purchase Tomosynthesis for Surrey’s Breast Health Clinic earlier this year. The funding was initiated by Tammy Ritchie of the Ritchie Foundation, one of the Holiday Home Tour for Hope team members. The Tour also supported the Tomosynthesis purchase.
This technology will increase early detection of breast cancer, and provide greater accuracy for determining the exact size, shape, and location of abnormalities. Thanks to our donors, patients in situations such as Tammy’s will receive more accurate test results in a timely manner.
Tammy Thomson is doing well. She is undergoing reconstructive surgery in October 2020. “How serendipitous,” she says, “that I’m having surgery during Breast Cancer Awareness month, exactly one year after my double mastectomy. I am so incredibly thankful for Dr. Janzen, and for the donors who made it possible to bring in this new technology that will help many, many women.”