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Andrea Snyder - Patient Story

"My experience at Fox Chase was just fantastic."

— Andrea Snyder

Five years cancer-free is a welcome milestone for anyone diagnosed with cancer, and Andrea Snyder was no exception. Originally diagnosed in 2006 with breast cancer, Andrea came to Fox Chase Cancer Center for her treatment. She had surgery (a lumpectomy), followed by radiation and chemotherapy. Fortunately, Andrea continued to come to Fox Chase for follow-up care because in 2012, she learned the cancer was back.

Despite the distance – she lives in Stroudsburg, PA, which is about a two-hour drive from Fox Chase – Andrea was so pleased with the quality of her care that she continued driving to Fox Chase for her annual follow-up visits, including one in December 2012.

“I went in for a mammogram, figuring I'd be able to go a whole year until I had to have my next one,” she recalled. But something showed up on her test that needed further investigation. It turned out that another type of breast cancer was present. This time Andrea didn’t want to risk another recurrence and decided to have a double mastectomy with reconstruction.

Dr. Chang offers patients surgical relief from lymphedema symptoms.

“I was 56 at the time,” she recalled. “I had developed lymphedema, which caused severe swelling. I was worried that surgery would make it worse.” Because the affected lymph nodes under the arm need to be removed, some women develop chronic swelling of the arm, or lymphedema. This can cause pain and disfigurement and may also lead to infections.  

Andrea and her husband enjoy a night out.Andrea met with Eric I. Chang, MD, plastic and reconstructive surgeon at Fox Chase, who is skilled in Vascularized Lymph Node Transfer (VLNT), a relatively new microsurgical procedure that involves transferring lymph nodes from the groin to the area under the arm, reducing, and sometimes eliminating, the effects of lymphedema. He brought surgical oncologist Elin R. Sigurdson, MD, PhD, FACS, to the team. Together, Dr. Chang and Dr. Sigurdson performed the complex 16-hour surgery on March 29. 

“Dr. Chang is not just a great doctor; he’s a wonderful human being - an angel,” she said. “He came to visit me in the hospital all the time, he called, he emailed. I’ve never had a doctor so concerned, so compassionate and so accessible.”

Andrea’s recovery was relatively speedy, with the help of Fox Chase occupational therapist Wilma Morgan-Hazelwood. She was back to managing her hair salon in about two months’ time.

"Dr. Chang is not just a great doctor; he’s a wonderful human being - an angel."

“I’ll tell you how well I’m doing,” she began. “Some of my employees left, and I had to work seven days a week for a few weeks. I managed fine – I didn’t feel wiped out or tired.” Andrea has seen a marked improvement in her lymphedema since the surgery, and has hopes that she’ll get even better. “I’m very lucky – I have a wonderful husband and two daughters. I feel good. And my experience at Fox Chase was just fantastic. From scheduling appointments to the nursing staff, to Dr. Sigurdson and Dr. Chang, everything was great. If you have to go through major surgery, they are the doctors you want taking care of you.”