New technology finds breast cancer in hospital president

HAMPTON ROADS, Va. (WAVY) — As breast cancer awareness month gets underway, 10 On Your Side wanted to bring you a story of survival with an interesting twist.

The president of a local hospital toiled over how to fund new, expensive equipment to better detect the deadly disease. Little did she know, one of the lives she’d save in Hampton Roads would be her own.

“I said, ‘I’m going to try out the new 3-D and see what’s happening with that,’ but never thought I’d be the one,” said Debra Flores, President of Sentara CarePlex Hospital. “You really have to fight through this, and I was determined that I was not going to let it overtake me.”

Flores had just struggled to find the money in the hospital budget to purchase a Tomosynthesis device and become on the first in the network to try it out. And a few months later, it detected stage-one cancer in her right breast. That lead to another scan that caught stage-zero cancer in her left breast.

Flores said she was scared, but determined to fight. And Doctor Kelley Allison was the radiologist at the Dorothy G. Hoefer Comprehensive Breast Center who got the ball rolling.

“When I can find a small cancer on a mammogram, I can find it hopefully at an early stage where the treatment is most effective, and that’s going to be a much better outcome for that woman,” Allison said. “I was not expecting to see that, especially in someone I’ve known personally for over 10 years.”

She’s seen the 3-D mammography images reduce the number of women who need to come back to the hospital for 2nd looks, and more importantly, she’s seen it save lives, including Flores’.

“Your life kind of flashes before your eyes, you’re like, ‘oh my goodness, this could be really, really serious,’” Flores said. “The next step truly is — we have to find a cure.”

Doctor Allison said Tomosynthesis has been the biggest breakthrough in breast cancer detection in the past 30 years. Insurance doesn’t cover Tomosynthesis yet because it’s too new, but she said it does look like that may happen by next year.

The most important thing, no matter what type of mammogram you have, is just make sure you’re scheduling them. Early detection could save your life, too.

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