Corinne Garthoff met her husband on the beaches of Belmont Shore. Avid volleyball players, the couple often enjoyed friendly competition on the courts with other Long Beach locals. One evening, after a full day of activity, Corinne’s back was sore. Lying facedown so her husband could “crack” her back, she felt a painful lump in her right breast.
At age 34, she had already experienced benign breast cysts. Wanting reassurance quickly, Corinne made an appointment with her primary care physician.
“I was told this was nothing – another benign cyst. My concerns were dismissed because I didn’t have a family history of breast cancer and I was young,” says Corinne. “But my gut told me this was different. I’d never experienced breast pain before.”
When she found a second lump, - this mom of a preschool daughter was determined to get answers. She saw her gynecologist, who immediately sent her for an ultrasound and biopsy. The answer was definitive: both lumps were cancerous. Corinne was up against the most daunting challenge of her life.
ACING OUT CANCER
Corinne began doing her homework. “I was determined to prevail and needed the best cancer care,” she says. “I looked to my immediate and distant circle of friends, neighbors and family for guidance. I found one common theme: Long Beach Medical Center.”
Leading breast oncology specialist, Cynthia Forsthoff, M.D., MemorialCare Breast Center, Long Beach Medical Center, was by Corinne’s side every step of the way. Her customized treatment plan began with chemotherapy to aggressively reduce the lumps. After six months, just one tumor – the diameter of a pencil eraser – remained.No cancer remained in her lymph nodes.
“The dramatic results allowed Corinne to forego radiation, but since her cancer was aggressive, we discussed all possible options,” says Dr. Forsthoff. “Corinne didn’t want to take any chances. A mastectomy, where the whole breast is removed, was the right choice for her.”
The mastectomy was performed, and Corinne was on her journey to recovery.
A SET-UP FOR SUCCESS
For each woman and her loved ones, a breast cancer diagnosis brings unique challenges. The MemorialCare Breast Center at Long Beach Medical Center offers a community of experts that combine world-class treatment with compassionate care, all under one roof.
“A breast cancer diagnosis creates a wave of emotions. From being uncertain about the future, to feeling overwhelmed, patients have a lot to manage,” says Dr. Forsthoff. “At the Breast Center, everything anyone facing a cancer diagnosis needs is in the same building, just steps apart. We wanted to do everything humanly possible to relieve as much of the burden of cancer as possible.”
The Breast Center is accredited as a Breast Imaging Center of Excellence by the American College of Radiology. Designed with women’s complete restoration in mind, the Breast Center features the most advanced technologies for innovative breast therapies in a calm, healing environment. State-of-the-art - technologies, such as digital mammography and breast ultrasound, allow specialists to find the smallest lesions for early detection of breast cancer. And when an abnormal mammogram requires further testing, complete services include same day biopsies to provide a faster diagnosis and peace of mind.
“No one knows a woman’s body like another woman. For this reason, many female patients prefer specialists who are women, particularly in breast imaging,” says Angela Sie, M.D., director of imaging, MemorialCare Breast Center, Long Beach Medical Center. “Our Breast Center is fortunate to have three fellowship-trained, female radiologists. We are all especially sensitive to the anxieties of women during this challenging time. We suggest screening annually rather than biannually because it allows us to find breast cancers in their smallest stages. Also, screening between the ages of 40 and 50 is especially important because cancers found in premenopausal patients are often the most aggressive types.”
PLAYBOOK FOR PREVENTION
Breast cancer affects one in eight women, most with no known family history. Incidence increases with age, but younger women, like Corinne, also may be at risk.
Because there are often no signs or symptoms of the disease, the American Cancer Society recommends annual mammograms for all women starting at age 40. Women with multiple risk factors, such as a family history, race and dense breasts may need to start mammograms earlier or have more in-depth screenings.
“When it comes to breast cancer, a woman’s best defense is a good offense. We know that early detection and mammograms save women’s lives,” says Dr. Forsthoff. “Don’t ignore even the smallest signs when it comes to your breast health. It can make all the difference.”
BACK IN ACTION
Today, thanks to her care team at Long Beach Medical Center, Corinne is cancer-free. She’s back to playing volleyball, baking cookies with her daughter and working as an instructional aide. As a cancer survivor, Corinne joined Women Guiding Women: Cancer Support and Education as a peer mentor to support other women facing the same cancer struggles.
“When you stop and look, it’s amazing just how many people are touched by cancer in some shape or form,” says Corinne. “I learned fighting cancer is not just physical – it’s mental. I wanted to share my story to bring hope to other women.”
She adds, “I’m here today because I tackled cancer head-on. I’m living life with my daughter and my husband. I couldn’t ask for anything more.”