Deb M's Story

Deb Munch, BREAST CANCER PATIENT ON ROAD TO HEALING WITHOUT CHEMOTHERAPYDeb M. is a 50-year-old breast cancer patient who met with two physicians at nearby hospitals and initially thought she would need intense radiation therapy and chemotherapy. But that all changed when she came to Stamford Hospital.

In 2016, Deb was diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma, the most common type of breast cancer affecting women and men. This type of breast cancer occurs when abnormal cancer cells begin forming in the milk ducts and spread into other parts of the breast tissue. A biopsy and MRI determined that Deb would need a mastectomy, but after the procedure, she wasn’t sure where to turn.

“It’s a very difficult road to navigate as a patient. I was looking for someone who I could trust and at first, I felt like I was being pushed into the harshest chemotherapy treatment plan without anyone explaining why,” said Deb. “Everything changed when I came to the Bennett Cancer Center.”

Deb met with medical oncologist Dr. Steve Lo at Stamford Health’s Bennett Cancer Center for a third opinion and said that he addressed her concerns, answered her questions and made her feel like she “finally had a team member” on her side. Dr. Lo ordered an OncotypeDx test – a unique genetic test that analyzes how cancer will respond to different treatments. The test is routinely used for women who have Stage 1 and Stage 2 breast cancer and are lymph node negative.

“In Deb’s case, she had a positive lymph node but what’s becoming increasingly clear is that the test is also applicable to Stage 2 lymph node positive breast cancer patients, like Deb,” said Dr. Lo. “Many oncologists have not embraced this data and still recommend chemotherapy for these patients, even if the OncotypeDx indicates they will not benefit from chemotherapy.”

According to Dr. Lo, Deb’s OncotypeDx test revealed that she would not need chemotherapy or radiation. After concurring with the test results, Dr. Lo took Deb’s case one step further, presenting it to colleagues at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (DFCI) in Boston during a bi-monthly breast conference between oncologists at the Bennett Cancer Center, other members of the Dana Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Care Collaborative and the breast cancer experts at DFCI. Breast specialists at Dana-Farber unanimously agreed with Dr. Lo that Deb did not need chemotherapy or radiation. Deb was in a salon shopping for a wig, in preparation for chemotherapy, when Dr. Lo delivered her the good news.

"At the beginning, I didn’t know who to believe because it was one opinion against another. But I appreciated Dr. Lo’s approach from the start. I felt the way I was taken care of was very personalized, and when he presented my case to Dana-Farber, it was just the icing on the cake. Dr. Lo and his team spared me chemotherapy and radiation that I feared could have impacted me in other ways,” said Deb. “I am extremely grateful to have had Dr. Lo in my corner.”

Stamford Health’s Bennett Cancer Center joined the Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Collaborative in July 2016, and this has already had benefits both for Bennett Cancer Center clinicians and for patients like Deb.