WebMD senior writer Miranda Hitti interviewed breast cancer survivors as part of a series for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The series, called "Me & the Girls," explores the personal stories of nine women who faced breast cancer.
Breast cancer survivor Mary Manasco, 59, lives in Jackson, Miss. In May 2008, a routine mammogram showed a suspicious spot in Manasco's right breast, which led to another mammogram, a biopsy, and a diagnosis of stage 1 breast cancer.
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The diagnosis upset her, of course. "When you hear the word 'cancer,' you pretty much freak out," Manasco says.
But she took comfort in the fact that her cancer was small and that she and her doctors at the University of Mississippi Medical Center had a plan -- do a lumpectomy (surgery to remove her tumor, but not her whole breast), followed by radiation therapy and treatment with the drug Femara.
"I knew there was a chance of recurrence. I'm not that naïve. But it's like, OK, that will take care of it," Manasco said.
But in May 2009, a routine mammogram showed something that turned out to be another cancer in the same breast.
"Even though I'd had radiation, even though I was on Femara, it still showed up," Manasco says.
This time, it was an "in situ" cancer, not the invasive cancer she'd had before. "In situ" means the cancer hasn't moved beyond the spot where it started; "invasive" cancer means it has spread beyond its tiny starting point, even if it's only gone a short distance, not throughout the body.
A mastectomy -- surgical removal of that breast -- was recommended. Manasco and her doctors agreed to also remove her other breast, which hadn't shown signs of cancer.
Getting diagnosed again was "so much more emotional" than the first time, Manasco says. "I could only tell one person a day, because I would just cry."
But she was crystal clear on her decision to have both breasts removed. "I simply want to get rid of it and hopefully really move on with the rest of my life," she says.