Hoag Program Makes Early Breast Cancer Detection its Mission

By ABC7

October 12, 2017
As women grow older, their risk of breast cancer goes up, too. But regardless of age, experts say the earlier it's detected, the better the outcome.

One Orange County program is making early detection their mission.

It was unseen on a mammogram and difficult to discern on an ultrasound, but trained eyes detected the unthinkable for Cheryl Newman-Tarwater, a commander in the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.

"I remember him saying, Cheryl, you have breast cancer," Newman-Tarwater recalled, "And I couldn't believe it and I said, 'What?'"

The diagnosis was invasive lobular carcinoma.

Newman-Tarwater's mother also had breast cancer, so she chose to go with a double mastectomy.

During surgery, doctors discovered it had spread to a lymph node.

"They're really hard to find these types of cancer, and if I had waited another year, I really would have been in trouble," Newman-Tarwater said.

Dr. January Lopez credits Newman-Tarwater's early diagnosis to her enrollment in HERA, the Hoag Early Risk Assessment program.

At HERA, doctors help women understand their risk, teach them how to minimize it and provide appropriate screening. Newman-Tarwater underwent an MRI, which identified a tiny but aggressive tumor.

"Had it been left in the breast for much longer, it could have potentially been very life-threatening," said Lopez.

MRI. Ultrasound. Mammogram: Lopez likens these tools to a spoon, fork and a knife. Different situations require different tools.

She said, "Some cancers, I can find the tiniest little 1 or 2 millimeter cancer on the mammogram right away, but other types of cancers like the one Cheryl had, you just can't see it no matter how hard you look. It's basically invisible on the mammogram."

Lopez points out most breast cancer patients don't have a family history.

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