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Patient Stories

Advanced Technology, Early Diagnosis
By Ewing

Marblehead Woman Gets Jump on Breast Cancer Thanks to 3-D Mammography

As part of her daily exercise routine, Florence Velluto, 68, loves nothing more than taking a brisk walk through the streets of Marblehead. Her preferred route winds through historic Old Town, where she and her husband have lived for close to two decades, and along the scenic paths that overlook the coastline. “I try and walk at least two miles every day, no matter what the weather is doing,” says Velluto. “It’s great exercise and the ocean air does wonders for the mind and soul.”

Exercise, eating well and being proactive about going to the doctor and scheduling her annual health screenings, Velluto says, are key to maintaining her youthful vitality.

It was this proactive approach that may have saved Velluto’s life last year. In October 2013, after having her annual mammogram at the NSMC Women’s Center in Danvers—something she has done faithfully since her 30s—Velluto received a call from the office of North Shore Medical Center radiologist Kevin Callahan, M.D., asking her to come back in for another test because he saw something on her exam that he was concerned about. This year, Velluto’s screening mammography exam was conducted using tomosynthesis*, or 3-D mammography, a breakthrough technology that was developed by experts at Massachusetts General Hospital and is offered at both NSMC Salem Hospital and the NSMC Women’s Center.

Through NSMC’s collaborative breast health program with Massachusetts General Hospital, Velluto was then scheduled to have a follow-up diagnostic examination done at the Breast Health Center at the Mass General/North Shore Center for Outpatient Care in Danvers. Like the test performed at the NSMC Danvers Women’s Center, this follow-up diagnostic imaging would also employ breast tomosynthesis.


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“Tomosynthesis is a relatively new technology that provides a clearer, more accurate view of the breast than conventional 2-D mammography, enabling us to more effectively pinpoint the size, shape and location of many abnormalities,” says Mansi Saksena, M.B.B.S., the diagnostic breast radiologist who saw Velluto at the Breast Health Center.

After viewing the test results, Dr. Saksena confirmed that there was a small mass in Velluto’s right breast. “Because the area in question was so small, it is possible that it would have gone undetected without the use of breast tomosynthesis,” says Dr. Saksena. A biopsy several days later confirmed that the mass was a cancerous tumor, approximately seven millimeters in diameter.

While Velluto was shocked by the diagnosis, having no family history of breast cancer, her first question was one of resolve: “How do I beat this thing?”

Her answer came in the form of a team of experts from the Mass General/North Shore Cancer Center in Danvers that included breast surgeon David J. Martini, M.D., oncologist Amy Comander, M.D., and radiation oncologist James McIntyre, M.D. Together this team developed a treatment plan for Velluto and collaborated closely on its implementation.

Within two weeks of her diagnosis, Velluto had her tumor removed at the Mass General/North Shore Center for Outpatient Care, followed immediately by a regimen of 33 daily radiation treatments. “I loved the team approach,” says Velluto. “It was very reassuring to know that all my doctors were working together on my behalf. The whole process, from diagnosis through treatment, was seamless. I always knew exactly what was going to happen and when, which alleviated a lot of anxiety.”

“Catching and treating Florence’s breast cancer early, while it was small and still confined to the breast, led to a great outcome,” says her radiologist Dr. Callahan. “Her case really exemplifies the benefits of annual screenings and being proactive about your health.”

Having completed her radiation treatments in January, Velluto is now cancer-free and glad to have the whole experience behind her. “It was a challenging year, but I’m grateful to have caught my cancer before it had a chance to spread. And that I was able to find such amazing care so close to home.”

The Mass General/North Shore Breast Health Center and the Breast Health Center sites at NSMC Salem Hospital, NSMC Union Hospital, NSMC Women’s Center and Cape Ann Medical Center are accredited by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health Radiology Control Program and the American College of Radiology.