Reva Rothenberg, 72, considers herself lucky. In 2003, after doctors said her annual mammogram was normal, she underwent a supplemental screening breast ultrasound, typically performed on women like Rothenberg who have dense breasts that can make cancerous lesions more difficult for doctors to identify. The ultrasound revealed a suspicious mass and a biopsy tested positive for stage IA invasive cancer of her right breast.
Suddenly Reva, then 57 and working full time in education, was faced with navigating a maze of treatment decisions while her elderly father was in a nursing home and her mother was in an assisted living facility.
Within three weeks of her diagnosis, she underwent a lumpectomy and more than 30 radiation treatments and began a five-year course of hormone therapy to keep the cancer at bay. Since then, the Manhasset mother of two has been cancer-free.
"At the time I didn't consider myself lucky," she said. "Hearing you have breast cancer is very frightening and lifechanging...but I believe that had I not had an ultrasound at the time, the cancer would not have been discovered until it was much larger." Reva advises women to have regular mammograms and recommends those who have been diagnosed with the disease to seek the "support and comfort that comes from other survivors."
"They [survivors] share their stores and understand you in a way that most people cannot," she said. "They give you hope and encouragement, as well as information and advice."