October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Find out how a healthcare provider at University Surgical Associates discovered the power of early detection – and found peace of mind through expert surgical care.

Traci Kilmartin, prosthetics specialist at University Surgical Associates, was just 39 years old when she discovered a lump in her right breast. She had a history of benign breast lesions, and breast cancer had been on her mind for the past few months. On Labor Day weekend, she felt a sudden urge to do a self-breast exam. She quickly felt a lump that she hadn’t felt before – and she knew it could be serious.

“When you’re in this situation, you just don’t want it to be real. I kept trying to find different positions to make the lump go away, but it didn’t. When I went to work on Tuesday, I made an appointment with Dr. Laura Witherspoon, and they immediately got me in to see her,” says Traci. “Dr. Witherspoon agreed that the lump should be evaluated by ultrasound right away.”

Traci Kilmartin, prosthetics specialist, and Dr. Laura Witherspoon, breast surgeon at University Surgical Associates, participate in local runs that raise awareness about breast and other types of cancer. Traci notes that running is her way of celebrating her health.

After the ultrasound, Dr. Witherspoon, breast cancer surgeon at USA, completed a biopsy on the lump the same day. The biopsy confirmed Traci did in fact have breast cancer. For many women – including Traci – hearing the diagnosis was completely overwhelming. Dr. Witherspoon walked Traci and her husband through the treatment options and talked candidly about possible outcomes. The fact that Dr. Witherspoon and her team managed all aspects of Traci’s care really took the pressure off when it came time for making appointments and knowing what steps to take.

“I’m so thankful it wasn’t on me to figure all of these things out on my own – my body was in fight or flight mode, but I felt comfortable to call and ask as many questions as I needed to ask. Dr. Witherspoon and her team were there to walk me through it,” Traci said. “I also knew that I wanted to talk with other women who’ve gone through the same experience – and I would recommend that to any woman who learns they have breast cancer. That’s one reason why I’m sharing my story – to normalize these conversations.”

Ultimately, after talking with family and friends who had faced similar situations and evaluating potential outcomes related to her cancer, Traci decided to have a full mastectomy and reconstruction. Plastic surgeon Dr. Mark Brzezienski worked in tandem with Dr. Witherspoon to treat Traci’s cancer and then help her physically recover.

“Even though the mastectomy and reconstruction were more intense surgeries up front, I felt like it would help me have greater peace of mind – and the physical outcome that I hoped to achieve,” says Traci. “Being diagnosed with breast cancer absolutely affects you for the rest of your life, but there is still a good life to be lived. I didn’t want it to affect my marriage and my confidence, and I’m very happy with the quality of care I received at every step and the end result.”

Expert Care for Breast Concerns

If you suspect a breast problem, USA surgeons who specialize in breast disease offer comprehensive evaluations including breast lumps, abnormal mammograms, breast pain, nipple drainage and evaluation of patients with a strong family history of breast cancer. When necessary, the surgeons at USA Breast Services perform breast cancer surgery and coordinate breast cancer care and therapy with other specialists. They also offer unique services that include facilitating referrals for specific therapies, support groups, risk assessment and counseling, breast health education, enrollment in clinical trials and much more.

At University Surgical Associates, we are committed to providing the best possible patient care. For more information about our comprehensive breast services or to schedule an appointment for a  risk assessment, breast biopsy or surgical consultation, please call (423) 267-0466.