Mammograms Save Lives

Early detection and family support are essential for patients battling breast cancer.

In 2010, during a routine mammogram, Linda Ortman, a Gibsonton native, was told she had a lump in her left breast. The news came as a shock to Linda and her loved ones, especially since there was no history of breast cancer in her family. Linda turned to her family – her twin sister, children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren – for support.

“We were all caught off guard,” says Linda. “Hearing the word ‘cancer’ is always scary, but with the support of my family, I was hopeful I could beat it.”

After a mastectomy, Linda learned the cancer was aggressive. She was told her time was limited. In addition to this news, Linda was grieving the loss of her long-time partner only five days before hearing the news about her own condition.

Fortunately for Linda, she was able to find moral and professional support from her local doctors and their teams.

“A second family”

“For the radiation therapy following my surgery, a close friend referred me to Dr. Steel at Tampa Bay Radiation Oncology,” Linda says. “Their doctors and nurses became a second family as I soon learned my battle with cancer had only just begun.”

Despite completing 33 treatments at Tampa Bay Radiation Oncology, Linda’s ordeal only worsened when a follow-up appointment revealed that the cancer had spread to her lymph nodes. She scheduled surgery to have 13 lymph nodes removed. Additionally, cancerous cells were also found in her lungs and treated.

Today, she is cancer free.

“Linda is living proof that routine mammograms can save lives, and that is one of the most important messages we as oncologists can promote,” says John R. “Jack” Steel, MD, with Tampa Bay Radiation Oncology.

Hopeful that other women will benefit from her story, Linda has become a proponent of routine mammograms.

“I do my best to spread the word that mammograms are important,” Linda explains. “I’m always referring my friends to my doctors to provide advice on treatment options and medicine. I’m glad my battle has provided encouragement to my family members as well. I want them to take care of themselves. I expect them to be around for a long time to come.”

Facts about Breast Cancer

Breast cancer (malignant breast neoplasm) originates from breast tissue, most commonly from milk ducts or lobules. Symptoms usually include a lump that feels unique compared to the rest of the breast tissue. Prognosis and survival rate depends on specific type and staging. While a majority of cases are found in women, men can also contract the disease. Risk factors include age, race and family history.

Treatment to increase the chances of long-term survival is determined by the stage, rate of growth, and other tumor characteristics. Available options include:

  • Surgical removal of tumor
  • Chemotherapy
  • Hormonal therapy
  • Radiation Therapy