Tough choice helps woman be cancer free
Wise advice: Dr. Alexander Starr, a hematologist/oncologist with Ingalls Cancer Care, recommended shrinking a tumor in Sheila Harris's breast before she had a mastectomy in February. She is now cancer free. | Supplied photo
Facing the removal of one breast from cancer is difficult enough.
Making the decision to have the other breast removed so the cancer doesn’t spread is almost unthinkable.
Yet that’s precisely the choice 42-year-old Sheila Harris of University Park faced last November.
Sheila’s story begins when she detected a lump in her left breast last fall.
“I also had pains in my left breast,” she explained. “I was scared. I didn’t want to face it at this point.”
But with a strong family history of cancer, Sheila knew the odds were stacked against her. She eventually scheduled an appointment with her doctor who recommended a mammogram.
“The mammogram showed a tumor the size of a quarter,” she said.
Immediately, she was referred to board-certified hematologist/oncologist Alexander Starr, M.D., who recommended chemotherapy before surgery to reduce the size of the tumor.
“We were able to substantially shrink the tumor before Mrs. Harris underwent a mastectomy in February,” said Dr. Starr, medical director at the Richard K. Desser Comprehensive Breast Center at Ingalls.
Before surgery at the center, Sheila made the difficult decision to have both breasts removed.
“I didn’t want to take the chance of having it spread to the other one,” she explained. “I just didn’t want to have to go through it all again.”
So on Valentine’s Day of this year, Sheila underwent both a double mastectomy and total breast reconstruction in one single surgical procedure.
Following a one-day stay at Ingalls, Sheila was discharged to continue her recovery at home. Today, she is cancer-free.
“I consider it my Valentine’s gift,” she said. “Everything came out beautifully.”
Provided by Ingalls Health System