Even though Jessica Hayes had no family history of breast cancer, as an assistant administrator at Delmar Gardens of Creve Coeur, she knew the importance of breast cancer screenings. “Work keeps me busy, and Missouri Baptist Medical Center’s Mammography Van had scheduled times at Delmar Gardens for residents and employees, making it convenient for me to get screened.”
Theresa Taylor, outreach coordinator for the Breast HealthCare Center at Missouri Baptist, explained that the mammography van travels across St. Louis and rural parts of Missouri, making scheduled stops in the community. “The van offers high-resolution 3D mammography, which is currently the best technology for detecting extremely small abnormalities in breast tissue.” She added that this advanced technology is typically covered by insurance.
Getting an Unexpected Cancer Diagnosis
After a baseline screening when she was 35 years old, Jessica started scheduling annual breast cancer screenings at the mammography van when she was 40 years old. Following her breast cancer screening in August 2019, she received a call from MoBap’s Breast HealthCare Center, letting her know there was an area of concern on her mammogram.
A few weeks later, Jessica went to Missouri Baptist for a diagnostic mammogram and ultrasound. “After findings confirmed the small mass, I had a biopsy on September 12, 2019, to determine if the tumor was cancerous.” One week later, Jessica got a call from MoBap Breast HealthCare Center Nurse Navigator Lynn Hayward, who told her they found cancer.
“I still get emotional thinking about that moment,” Jessica said as she took a deep breath to steady her voice. “Hearing the word ‘cancer’ was frightening, and I felt overwhelmed. I’m so thankful for Lynn, whose compassion helped put my mind at ease. She told me that she would be my point person and help me navigate the process.”
Jessica explained that Lynn was invaluable for coordinating appointments, connecting her to resources, answering questions and offering support. “As a nurse navigator, Lynn helped make this whole experience manageable.”
Choosing Bilateral Mastectomy
Jessica recalled that after her cancer diagnosis, things moved quickly. One of her first appointments was with BJC Medical Group surgical oncologist Dr. G. Paul Yazdi to discuss her surgical options. “Dr. Yazdi explained each procedure, and I decided to have a bilateral mastectomy because I didn’t want to worry about the cancer coming back.”
During her visit with Dr. Yazdi, Jessica also had blood drawn to test if she carried a gene mutation which puts people at a higher risk of developing breast cancer or ovarian cancer. As the parent of a son, Jessica said she was relieved when the test results were negative.
Jessica also met with MoBap medical oncologist Dr. Bryan Faller, the Alan P. Lyss, MD Endowed Chair in Cancer Research, and radiation oncologist Dr. Vincent Joe. “We talked about chemotherapy and the possible radiation treatment that would start after I recovered from surgery,” Jessica said. “Everyone took time to answer my questions, and I felt cared about and was never rushed.”
Dr. Faller explained that Jessica was diagnosed with stage 1A breast cancer that was estrogen and progesterone positive and HER2 positive. “HER2-positive breast cancers tend to be quick growing and more aggressive than other types of breast cancer,” he explained. “Because her tumor was smaller than 3 centimeters, she qualified for a less toxic type of chemotherapy regimen.”
Surgery & Chemotherapy
On October 18, 2019, Jessica had a bilateral mastectomy with two lymph nodes removed under her arm on the right side. She also had a port placed through which she would receive chemotherapy medication. After surgery, her pathology report revealed that cancer had not spread to her lymph nodes, which meant that Jessica would not have to undergo radiation treatment.
Once Jessica healed from the surgery, she started chemotherapy infusion on November 20, 2019, in MoBap’s Cancer Center. “The Cancer Center felt cozy, comfortable and welcoming,” Jessica said as she described the large windows that overlook a healing garden. “In the Cancer Center, each patient has a private space with a comfortable reclining chair and TV.”
While she experienced several side effects like nausea, vomiting and overall tiredness from the chemotherapy, Jessica said the hardest part of the treatment was losing her hair. She added that she got her first wig through MoBap’s Cancer Support Center and later added a curly wig that matched her natural hair.
Looking back on her experience, Jessica is thankful for everyone at MoBap who supported her at each stage of her journey. “I cannot say enough about the high quality of care I received.”
Celebrating the End of Treatment
Jessica got to ring the bell first on February 5, 2020, after finishing one chemotherapy medication, and again on October 21, 2020, signaling the end of her second treatment and the remission of her breast cancer.
During her last visit to MoBap, Jessica found herself wiping away tears as she walked to the Cancer Center. “It was truly a bittersweet moment. I was elated that I made it through everything cancer threw at me, but I was sad my regular visits with an amazing group of people at Missouri Baptist were ending.”
Today, Jessica is celebrating being cancer-free and is enjoying life. She advises women to get their breast cancer screenings and schedule their annual mammograms when their doctors recommend them. “Mammograms are a quick, easy screening. And it can save your life.”
Dr. Faller added that besides skin cancers, breast cancer is the most common cancer in American women. “That’s why it’s important for women to get breast cancer screenings as soon as they are eligible and repeat them annually. Screening mammograms can help catch breast cancer in its early stages when it’s easier to treat.”
Scheduling Mammography Van Breast Cancer Screenings
On average, 5,350 women are diagnosed with breast cancer every year in Missouri. Today, mammograms are the best screening tool for early detection of breast cancer when it is most curable. The MoBap mobile mammography van travels to over 30 counties in Missouri, providing easy access to this important screening for women near where they live or work.
Theresa described the extra precautions they are taking to keep patients and team members safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. “We ask COVID-19 screening questions, require masks, and only allow one patient in the van at a time.” She added that appointments are scheduled in 15-minute increments to allow for thorough cleaning and sanitation between patients.
To make an appointment, please call 314-996-5171 or visit www.missouribaptist.org/mammogram.
For those who have received the COVID-19 vaccine, Missouri Baptist recommends following the CDC guidance and allow at least four to six weeks between the vaccine and your mammogram to ensure an accurate screening.