Lynn Cristina and her husband are seasoned travelers. Spain and France are among the couple’s favorite destinations, though they embrace the opportunity to visit new places.

With a family history of breast cancer, the retired elementary school teacher and grandmother began getting annual mammograms at age 40. Following an annual check-up with her OB/GYN, Lynn was referred to the MemorialCare Breast Center at Saddleback Medical Center for her mammogram. Just before leaving the office, her doctor noted that all mammograms are not created equal. These words would soon have greater meaning than she could possibly know.

Lynn was confident that she was healthy. After all, she felt great and no lumps could be felt on, or around her breasts. That was until her mammogram came back with abnormal results. Lynn returned to the Breast Center for additional testing. A needle biopsy, a procedure in which a small sample of the suspicious area of the breast is removed and examined, was performed. The biopsy came back positive for cancer.

“Even with my family history, I still had trouble believing I had cancer,” recalls Lynn.


Lynn met with Gary Levine, M.D., breast radiologist and medical director of MemorialCare Breast Centers. Utilizing the full gamut of technologies available, Dr. Levine ordered an ultrasound, MRI and a 3D tomosynthesis mammogram, which allows the radiologist to examine through the breast tissue more precisely. Fortunately, the imaging results indicated that the cancer was still in its very early stages.

“Lynn’s particular type of cancer is known as invasive lobular carcinoma. It is the second most common form of invasive breast cancer diagnosed in the United States. It’s much harder to find than most cancers, because it infiltrates through the tissues, generally growing linearly, rather than becoming a mass,” says Dr. Levine.


As Lynn met with her breast care team of specialists at Saddleback Medical Center, she quickly realized that they were developing a customized treatment plan, just for her. After considering all of the risk factors such as her family history of breast cancer and the specifics of her case, Lynn’s plan included surgery and radiation therapy.

“One of the main advantages of receiving care here is that there is a cohesive and streamlined approach among members of the breast cancer team,” says breast surgeon Anna Houterman, M.D. “At Saddleback Medical Center, each breast cancer patient’s treatment plan is discussed at a weekly conference with multiple cancer doctors from specialties including surgery, medical oncology, radiation oncology, radiology, pathology and genetics. Essentially, each patient receives feedback from as many as 10 specialists.”

Lynn’s journey was not only followed by several physicians, but also by her certified breast care navigator, Jackie Hower, MPH, RT. Jackie was by Lynn’s side from day one, keeping her informed, and assisting with scheduling, among many other things.

“Jackie was so kind, so warm,” beams Lynn. “I remember her saying ‘Can I hug you?’ and she let me know I could contact her any time of day or night. She was there for me.”


Prior to surgery, Merry Tetef, M.D., a medical oncology specialist, sub-specialized in breast cancer care, suggested that Lynn participate in a research study. The study included a new, exclusive medicinal treatment plan. Dr. Tetef discussed the opportunity with Dr. Houterman, Lynn and the rest of her care team, and they decided that Lynn’s participation in the study prior to surgery could help her beat cancer.

“At the end of the six-month study, the malignancy had decreased in size considerably, reducing the extent of surgery and minimizing subsequent treatment,” says Dr. Tetef. A lumpectomy was later performed, removing the malignant tumor and paving the way for a life free of cancer.

“After a full course of radiation treatment using our breath hold technology on the TrueBeam linear accelerator, Lynn is doing well, with no symptoms. She has a really good outlook for the future,” says Linda Chan, M.D., radiation oncologist at Saddleback Medical Center.

With a renewed sense of hope and her copilot by her side, Lynn and her husband are already planning their next adventure.

For more information on the MemorialCare Breast Center at Saddleback Medical Center, visit our section on Breast Care.