Topics in This Section
The decision to have a bilateral mastectomy is never an easy one. But for Ruth Sklar, a French teacher, the prospect of surgery made perfect sense, a preferred option over not knowing when the next questionable test result would send her into an emotional tailspin.
Ruth’s journey with breast cancer started in June 2005, when a routine mammogram revealed what her doctor called “good news/bad news,” she remembered. “The bad news was that I had DCIS (ductal carcinoma in situ, which is the most common type of non-invasive breast cancer),” she said. “The good news was that it hadn’t spread.” Ruth was in shock. “I was the first person in my family to ever have breast cancer,” she said. “I fell apart.”
"DCIS was just something to get through and put behind me."
A close physician friend suggested she see Marcia Boraas, M.D., a breast surgeon who at that time was practicing at the University of Pennsylvania, and is now with the Women’s Cancer Center at Fox Chase. Armed with a list of questions, Ruth walked into her first appointment with Dr. Boraas. She walked out feeling reassured. “Dr. Boraas told me that she’d rather have my diagnosis than a chronic condition like diabetes, which really hit home with me,” she said. “DCIS was just something to get through and put behind me.”
Ruth's surgery was scheduled for August. Dr. Boraas performed the lumpectomy procedure and no residual DCIS was identified. After consultations with both a medical and radiation oncologist, it was determined that Ruth needed no further treatment.
The next five years flew by with no medical problems. Then, in the fall of 2010, Ruth had her annual breast MRI in her hometown of Williamsport, which revealed six uncertain areas for which biopsy was recommended. “My doctor said if this kept up I’d start to look like Swiss cheese,” said Ruth.
Ruth returned to Fox Chase for treatment five years later for a recurrence.
Ruth, who turned 66 in 2012, returned to Dr. Boraas at her office at Fox Chase Cancer Center after the six needle biopsies were performed. One came back with LCIS (lobular carcinoma in situ), a type of abnormal cell growth that increases a person's risk of developing invasive breast cancer. “My feeling was, why wait until I had metastatic breast cancer that was going to spread?” she said. “I figured I’d have a mastectomy and reconstruction (which included a tummy tuck at the same time).”
Plastic and reconstructive surgeon Sameer A. Patel, MD, FACS, joined Ruth’s surgical team. Dr. Patel explained the TRAM flap procedure, which meant taking fat from Ruth’s abdomen to reconstruct her new breasts.
“I wasn’t worried at all. I trusted Dr. Boraas and Dr. Patel completely."
“I wasn’t worried at all. I trusted Dr. Boraas and Dr. Patel completely," admitted Ruth. "In my mind, the surgery would make the problem go away.”
Ruth was admitted to Fox Chase for a bilateral mastectomy and reconstructive surgery in February 2011. She stayed in the hospital for five days following the surgery. Ruth admits her recovery was speedy. “I had no pain to speak of,” she said. “The nursing staff was just terrific, very caring and attentive.” Dr. Boraas called Ruth after the surgery to let her know the results. The right breast had unexpectedly shown a small area of DCIS - which was already treated by her mastectomy surgery. “I felt completely confident that I made the right decision.”
Now retired from teaching, Ruth maintains a busy lifestyle and spends as much time as possible traveling to places where she can use her French language skills. “I have peace of mind now,” she said. “Being able to count on Dr. Boras and Dr. Patel at Fox Chase meant the world to me."