The American Cancer Society reports that triple negative breast cancer accounts for about 15-20 percent of breast cancer diagnoses. This particular cancer can be more aggressive than the others and difficult to treat. Triple negative is also more likely to spread and recur.
A diagnosis of triple negative breast cancer means that the three most common types of receptors known to fuel most breast cancer growth (estrogen, progesterone, and the HER-2/neu gene), are not present in the cancer tumor. Because chemotherapy is designed to target those receptors this makes it difficult to treat.
In August of 2017, Karen McCoy, of Sidney, Ky, was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer. Although the diagnosis changed her life, she realized that the support of her friends and family would get her through the disease.
“I knew for a while something was wrong before I was ever diagnosed,” said Karen. “I just thought if I didn’t say anything that it wouldn’t be true.”
She went to the Pikeville Medical Center (PMC) emergency room after a blister appeared under her arm with bruising on her breast. She was admitted that night and diagnostic testing was performed. The results concluded that she, in fact, had breast cancer. PMC Surgeon Oon Leedhanachoke, MD, came in the next day to do a biopsy and insert a port for her chemotherapy.
After the pathology report came back on her biopsy, they determined her breast cancer was triple negative. Her oncologist, Christopher Croot, MD, determined it was stage three and prescribed four rounds of chemotherapy and 12 rounds of radiation.
“Dr. Croot explains everything to me and really researches cancer,” said Karen. “I am thankful to benefit from his knowledge and the research he puts into my care. He has a passion for cancer care in our region.”
In March, Dr. Oon performed her mastectomy. Afterwards, she underwent 25 radiation treatments. PMC Radiation Oncologist Ruth Lavigne, MD, oversaw her radiation treatments.
“I love Dr. Lavigne,” said Karen. “She is so nice and so personable. She is always cheerful and makes me feel comfortable.”
“Karen is a phenomenal lady. Her spirit is inspiring and is generated by her faith and family,” said Dr. Lavigne. “It was an absolute treasure to treat her!”
Once her treatment was complete, she had to undergo chemotherapy again, because of tumors discovered under her arm. She also had infusions of Keytruda every three weeks and will remain on a chemo pill for an undetermined amount of time. She went on to say that everyone from the front desk staff to the chemo nurses and the inpatient cancer floor nurses were excellent.
Throughout her care, Karen could always count on her husband, David, sister, Sharon, close cousins, special friends John and Bridgett Hall and her church family to be there if she needed help getting to her appointments.
“I’m grateful that Pikeville Medical Center has this level of care,” she said. “This place has been a blessing to me. I am thankful I don’t have to travel out of town to get the treatment I need for my cancer.”
Karen added that she didn’t feel like she was just a number at the Cancer Center.
“The physicians here made all the difference, because I know they care so much about me and my treatment.”
For more information about the oncology services offered at the Leonard Lawson Cancer Center or to schedule an appointment, please visit www.pmcfightscancer.org or call 606-218-2212.