, Salem, MA

Fighting breast cancer

October 16, 2012

'I knew what I had to do and that was that'

PEABODY — Sherri Temkin considers herself one of the lucky ones.

Temkin, 53, was diagnosed with ductal carcinoma in situ in August 2007. Ductal carcinoma in situ, or DCIS, is considered to be one of two stage 0, or noninvasive, breast cancers.

Her mammogram that year actually came back negative. But Temkin has a history of breast cancer in her family — her mother had battled breast cancer when Temkin was young, and another family member had recently been diagnosed with a form of the disease. Her doctor sent her in for an ultrasound. The test picked up shadows in both of her breasts. MRIs and biopsies followed, and her right breast tested positive for cancer.

“When you hear the word ‘cancer,’ shock sets in immediately. You don’t know how to react,” said Temkin, who lives in Peabody. “I got over the initial shock and then went into ‘gotta do this’ mode. I knew what I had to do and that was that.”

Doctors gave Temkin a range of options. In many cases, DCIS can be treated without removing the entire breast. But Temkin opted for a bilateral, or double, mastectomy and breast reconstruction.

“Because of the family history, I didn’t think I had much of a choice,” she said.

For Temkin, it helped to have seen her mother’s experience first hand, although treatment options have evolved exponentially since then. Her mother was diagnosed with a stage 2 form of the disease, underwent a mastectomy and radiation, and wore a breast prosthesis. After 17 years, cancer reappeared in her esophagus, in the form of a tumor believed to have been at least partially caused by the radiation.

“I think, after knowing what my mother went through, I think at that point I decided that, if I was ever diagnosed, I would get a mastectomy,” she said.

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Fighting breast cancer
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