There are exactly two moments in every day that Tich Chaikumnerd can count on: taking her first sip of coffee, and falling into bed at night. The rest is a juggling act that usually involves trains, planes or automobiles. That’s why on weekends, she takes a few moments to herself for an afternoon walk with her beloved dog, Dingo.

“My life moves at a million miles an hour,” says software sales executive Tich. “I really appreciate the nooks and crannies of ‘me-time.’”


For 49-year-old Tich, breast cancer screening was just part of her normal routine. Tich watched her aunt and sister face breast cancer diagnoses. With her family history, she knew she was at higher risk because a woman with one first-degree female relative with breast cancer has almost twice the risk of a woman without a family history.

During her initial mammogram almost 10 years ago, Tich learned that she was among the 40% of women who have dense breast tissue, which may make cancer detection more difficult, and increases the risk of developing the disease.

“There were too many signs around me – my aunt, my sister, my dense breasts. Breast cancer was very real for me,” says Tich. “I didn’t want to leave anything to chance.”


The unfortunate statistics show that one in eight women will battle breast cancer during her lifetime. At the MemorialCare Breast Center at Saddleback Medical Center, state-of-the art diagnostic technology empowers breast specialists to screen for and detect cancers at their smallest, most treatable stage. Advanced imaging capabilities include traditional mammography, dedicated breast MRI, whole breast ultrasound and 3D tomosynthesis mammography.

During tomosynthesis, multiple images of each breast are taken from various angles to create a 3D picture of the breasts. For patients like Tich, this new generation of mammography has proven especially valuable, as tomosynthesis has been demonstrated to find up to 40% more invasive cancers in women with dense breasts.

“We cannot reliably prevent breast cancer, however we know that if detected early, it is among the most curable of cancers,” says Gary Levine, M.D., breast radiologist and medical director of the MemorialCare Breast Center at Saddleback Medical Center. “Breast cancer mortality rates continue to decrease, predominantly due to mammographic screening. However, in women with dense breasts, cancer can be masked or mimicked on a traditional 2D mammogram. Tomosynthesis allows us to ‘see through’ the dense breast tissue and find a cancer that may be hiding within it.”


After eight traditional 2D mammograms, Tich’s doctor suggested a 3D mammogram due to her dense breast tissue. The phone rang the next day – there was a mass that hadn’t been seen before. An initial needle biopsy revealed a high risk lesion and surgical removal was recommended.

When surgery is needed, breast surgeon and medical director of the Surgical Breast Care Program, Anna Houterman, M.D., is dedicated to helping breast cancer patients throughout their journey.

“We listen to our patients, and develop a tailored surgical treatment plan, one that combines their wishes with our expertise in medicine to help them live cancer-free,” says Dr. Houterman.


With surgery behind her, Tich quickly returned to her daily life. Just five days after, she was back on a plane to a business meeting, and planning a Tahitian vacation with her husband.

“You have to own your health. When it comes to breast cancer, don’t take any chances,” says Tich. “With Saddleback Medical right here, there’s no good reason to delay your screening. It could save your life.”

For more information, please visit our section on Breast Care.