Ascension Wisconsin patient credits high risk cancer monitoring, care team with saving her life | Ascension

Ascension Wisconsin patient credits high risk cancer monitoring, care team with saving her life


As a physician, Beth was no stranger to annual checkups. And as a woman in her mid-fifties, with a family history of breast cancer, she was used to receiving screenings, but she never expected one of her appointments would quickly turn into a breast cancer diagnosis.

It all started in 2014. Beth received a biopsy for a breast lump that turned out to be non cancerous. 

However, because of Beth’s family history of breast cancer, her primary care doctor sent her to see Hanadi BuAli, MD, a Breast Surgical Oncologist, with Ascension Wisconsin Medical Group for an opinion regarding the lump, and any other possible testing Beth may need. Dr. BuAli ran a risk assessment and advised Beth that even though her lump was completely benign and did not need to be removed, she had an elevated lifetime risk for breast cancer due to several factors, including her family history. Dr. BuAli recommended she be closely followed as a high risk patient with routine exams, mammograms and annual breast MRIs.

Even though her June 2018 mammogram showed no problems, Beth’s December 2018 breast MRI did. An ultrasound at that time also couldn’t identify a problem, so doctors performed an MRI guided biopsy, and that is ultimately what detected Beth’s breast cancer. 

"I was surprised to know that even with a normal mammogram and ultrasound, cancer could still be present,” Beth said. 

Fortunately, the additional screening her team recommended caught the cancer early. 

“It could have been disastrous otherwise,” Beth said. “I would not have known for at least another 6 months that there was a problem and the cancer would have spread. My treatment could have been a lot more extensive.”

Beth’s care team put a treatment plan together, and in January 2019, Dr BuAli performed a lumpectomy to surgically remove the cancer. Afterwards, Beth received chemotherapy in March and April, that same year. In the fall, she received radiation.

Because her cancer was caught at an early stage, she was able to continue doing what she loves throughout her treatment. 

“I’m a private practitioner and didn’t want to leave my patients without a physician,” Beth said. “Thankfully, I was not only able to keep working, but I was able to travel and continue living my life.”

Beth’s cancer has been in remission ever since. She continues to visit the doctor every six months for follow up screenings.

Cancer Prevention and Wellness 

Because of Beth’s follow up as a high risk patient, she likely had a better outcome.

Knowing the importance of this, Ascension Wisconsin has put together a comprehensive cancer prevention and wellness program. This program is designed to identify individuals who are at a higher risk of developing cancer. It helps them understand their risk, and creates a plan that can help lower that risk, or lead to the early detection of cancer when it’s most treatable by receiving recommended screenings, tests and exams. 

As part of her treatment plan, Beth was offered genetic testing and a mutation was identified. Surprisingly, it was from her father’s side, not her mother’s, and it put her at higher risk for other cancers as well. After receiving these results. Beth encouraged her family members to get tested, and four of them found out they were also at higher risk for developing cancer.

"This knowledge was life-changing for me and my family. Now they know what to watch for and how to plan their routine screenings and preventative care,” Beth said. "I am so grateful to my care team for their guidance, compassion and support, which made my diagnosis and treatment less frightening. I am sure that early screening saved my life."

Compassionate, supportive care teams

Whether you have questions about new symptoms and need a screening or have a new cancer diagnosis and need ongoing care, we are with you. Our experienced cancer doctors share best practices and the latest in cancer treatment and research — bringing the best of cancer care to you. Your doctor will take the time to answer your questions – big and small – paying attention to your needs and those who support you. You and your doctor will work together on a personalized care plan. And with a plan, comes hope. Learn more at ascension.org/WisconsinCancerCare