Sandra Race: Success With Breast-Sparing Surgical Technology

“I knew on that very first day that I could count on Fox Chase.”
‐Sandra Race

I’ve always been a healthy, active person. I don’t take any medications, I eat the best I can, and I walk at least two miles every day. I also get my routine mammogram every year.

In November 2023, I went in for my annual screening. Several days later, my doctor called to tell me they’d found a suspicious area, so I needed to go back for a follow-up mammogram and an ultrasound. After that, a biopsy confirmed that I had breast cancer.

Choosing Treatment at Fox Chase

When I received my diagnosis, my husband and I decided to get a second opinion. I’d heard good things about Fox Chase Cancer Center, so even though it’s 120 miles away from where I live, I read up on all the doctors there. Ultimately, I decided on Dr. Richard Bleicher, a surgical oncologist who specializes in breast cancer, because his credentials were impressive and I liked the treatment philosophy he’d written on the Fox Chase website.

In January 2024, I met with Dr. Bleicher and Dr. Cassandra Cardarelli, a breast oncology fellow. At that meeting, my husband and I made our decision on the spot: We would continue treatment at Fox Chase. Both doctors really took the time to help us understand what was happening in my body and what my options were, which was important, because this was all new to me.

Plus, the quality of care went beyond the doctors. From the moment my husband and I walked into Fox Chase, everyone, from the security guards to the people at the information desk, was ready to help us get where we needed to be. And everything ran on time. I knew on that very first day that I could count on Fox Chase.

Top Technology for Breast-Sparing Surgery

Dr. Bleicher confirmed that I would need surgery, and my choices were a lumpectomy or a full mastectomy. I’d heard of other women saying they chose the full mastectomy so they “didn’t have to worry anymore.” But Dr. Bleicher reassured me that based on the specifics of my case and thanks to the cutting-edge technology available to him, I could have equally good results with a breast-sparing lumpectomy. I trusted him, so that’s what I chose to do.

On February 8, 2024, I returned to Fox Chase for preadmission testing and had a SmartClip Tumor Marker inserted. It’s part of the EnVisio real-time Surgical Navigation System from a company called Elucent. Dr. Bleicher explained that this device would work as a guide when he operated on me, sort of like a GPS system.

The SmartClip provides 3D coordinates of the cancer, which makes it better than an ordinary metal clip because it enables surgeons to leave as much healthy breast tissue intact as possible. The insertion was totally painless, and I left that day with a good feeling that everything we were doing was building toward success. And as it turns out, I was patient 1,000 treated with this technology at Fox Chase since they adopted it in 2020.

The following week, my husband and I drove back to Fox Chase for my surgery. Because we live far away, the staff at Fox Chase introduced us to Hope Lodge, where we were able to stay for the two nights around my surgery. It was a beautiful facility, and everyone there was friendly and accommodating, another positive experience amidst the turmoil of cancer.

The surgery itself was as seamless as it could have been. I was only in the hospital for a total of five hours, and after he finished operating, Dr. Bleicher immediately called my husband to tell him everything had gone well. My husband and I slept at Hope Lodge that night and were able to drive home the next day.

Looking Forward to a Bright Future

At my follow-up appointment, Dr. Bleicher explained that while the surgery had been successful and all six sides of the tissue he’d removed were devoid of cancer, one side didn’t look exactly the way he wanted it to. I had the option of proceeding with treatment, which in my case would be radiation, or having a second surgery. Since the second surgery would use the same incision, it would be even less invasive than the first, so I decided to move ahead with it.

The surgery went fine, and I then underwent three weeks of radiation. I’m now back to working my full-time administrative job at Penn State Wilkes-Barre, enjoying the outdoors with my husband, and spending as much time as possible with my children and grandchildren. And it is all thanks to having gotten that second opinion at Fox Chase.

Learn more about treatment for breast cancer at Fox Chase Cancer Center.