Nuclear Stress Test Finds Breast Cancer

Lori B. Frank, MD

Lori B. Frank, MD

Susan Maier spent the summer of 2013 preparing for a performance of Aida in New York’s Central Park with St. Rita’s Collegiate Choir of South Philadelphia. So, when she developed pain in her neck and shoulder, she attributed it to the massive score she had been carrying around in her music bag.

“The score is 231 pages,” Susan said.

Susan’s husband wanted to make sure that’s all it was and made her promise to mention the pain to her cardiologist, Lori Frank, M.D., of Jefferson Heart Institute’s Northeast Philadelphia satellite location at Smylie Times.

As promised, Susan told Dr. Frank, who ordered an echocardiogram and nuclear stress test.

“Dr. Frank said that she knew I wasn’t a complainer,” Susan said. “She’s a lovely woman, smart and focused.”

The results showed that Susan’s heart was fine, but something else was there. Dr. Frank explained that it could have been something harmless, like a splash on her gown, or something more worrisome like a mass. Susan had a mammogram in the past year which was clear, but Dr. Frank recommended another.

After more tests and a biopsy, Susan was told that she had fast-growing breast cancer. The first step was 16 weeks of chemotherapy. The chemo took its toll, but Susan remained positive.

“Everything they say is going to happen does,” she said. “You just keep marching through.”

After finishing her course of chemo, Susan scheduled an appointment with a breast surgeon to discuss next steps. In her pre-appointment testing, she got a surprise.

“They couldn’t find it,” she said. “The 2.4 centimeter tumor was gone. The doctor called it a complete pathological response. The chemo did what it was supposed to do.”

Susan underwent surgery to clear margins and test her lymph nodes. The test showed that she was cancer free.

Offering a possible explanation, Susan said, “Saint Rita is the patron saint of the impossible and I sing there every Sunday.”

“I told Dr. Frank that she saved my life,” Susan said.

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