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Nancy’s Story: Finding a Tool to Help With Scanxiety 

Regular scans during breast cancer treatment can help identify if the cancer is responding to treatment – or when breast cancer has recurred. In the lead up time to scans, people often feel a sense of anxiety – or scanxiety. Fortunately, there are tools available to some that may help identify breast cancer recurrence.

In early 2023, Nancy Seybold learned she had stage 2B HER2-positivehormone receptor-negative breast cancer. She’d felt pain in her breast, but as an active amateur athlete who rides horses, she assumed it was horse related. “It felt like a bruise,” she said, but when she realized there was a lump associated with it, she knew she needed a mammogram. She had the mammogram, followed by an ultrasound and a biopsy

“I was scheduled for chemo first,” she explained. An MRI showed the initial tumor Nancy felt had grown larger, and that there was a second tumor that had not shown up on the mammogram. 

Nancy had six rounds of chemotherapy, which she responded well to, followed by a lumpectomy. During the lumpectomy, a couple of lymph nodes were also removed. “The two tumors were aggressive, but we caught it before any lymph node involvement,” Nancy said. 

Tests showed there were some cancer cells still present, which meant Nancy would need to undergo more chemotherapy. “I wasn’t happy about that,” she said. “But this one has been easier to tolerate.”

With some evidence of disease still visible, disease recurrence is a worry for her. “I’m very anxious about recurrence,” Nancy said. 

However, there are some tools that may be available to some people that can help monitor for breast cancer recurrence and provide peace of mind in between scans. One of those is called Signatera, a test that may help show if a person’s tumor is coming back. A blood test and tissue sample are used to create a unique test for a person. The unique test can then be used to help monitor tumor DNA levels in that person’s blood. This may help understand if a tumor is recurring. Nancy was familiar with this tool because she works with colorectal cancer patients, who have been using this test.

Nancy and her doctor discussed the benefits and drawbacks of utilizing a tool like Signatera. “If I receive a positive result, I’ll need to consider what it means for my treatment plan,” she explained.

For instance, one of the medications Nancy’s doctor suggested to treat her cancer could potentially affect her heart and cause neuropathy. “I felt it was the right time to try a tool like Signatera because I was uncertain if this particular medication was the best choice for me. If the test results were negative, it would help us have a more informed discussion about the necessity of continuing the current treatment,” she said

So far, Nancy’s tests have all been negative, but the thought of possibly testing positive is something she thinks about. Knowing she has access to a tool that can help monitor for breast cancer recurrence may help people like Nancy make better-informed decisions about their breast cancer treatment. Tests like this may be covered by Medicare for patients with stage 2-4 breast cancer.

Disclaimer: Nancy is being monitored using a simple, non-invasive blood test called Signatera to help assess treatment response, enabling her and her care team to make more informed therapy decisions. Ask your doctor if Signatera is right for you.

Listen to Dr. Angel Rodriguez discuss surveillance monitoring for breast cancer recurrence on the Real Pink podcast.

Statements and opinions expressed are that of the individual and do not express the views or opinions of Susan G. Komen. This information is being provided for educational purposes only and is not to be construed as medical advice. Persons with breast cancer should consult their healthcare provider with specific questions or concerns about their treatment.