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Komen Scholar’s Own Breast Cancer Experience

Dr. Barbara Segarra-Vazquez, DHSc, is a Komen Scholar and Chair of the Komen Advocates in Science, as well as a faculty member at the University of Puerto Rico. She is also a two-time breast cancer survivor. She has been married for 35 years and has two sons.

I was first diagnosed with stage 2B breast cancer in 2003. I had been undergoing regular mammograms every year or every other year because I had benign cysts. In April 2003, I had a mammogram that came back negative for cancer.

But in October, I started feeling a lump. So, just seven months after a negative mammogram, I found I had invasive ductal carcinoma breast cancer. I was the first one in my family, nobody else had breast cancer.

My kids at the time were 10 and 14. I had a lumpectomy, six months of chemotherapy, seven weeks of radiation therapy and I was on hormone therapy for about six years. Family and friends support was crucial during the treatment process.

I work in science. I’m a medical technologist, but I started at square one. I was able to navigate easily what I had to do from one doctor to the another, especially with the help of my sister that knew oncology physicians. Within a month, I had my appointment for the lumpectomy, I knew who was going to be my oncologist, but that’s not the case for everyone.

For 13 years, the cancer remained in remission. I didn’t have any scares. Then, in 2017, I found a little scratch on my breast, and I just thought it was nothing. When a dermatologist did the biopsy, it was metastatic breast cancer to the skin, and it was the same type of cancer as the first diagnosis. I had a mastectomy and went back to hormone therapy. And now, five years later, thank God everything is okay.

Read about Dr. Segarra-Vazquez’s work to include more patient perspectives in breast cancer research and treatment here.