Gladys Camarena was her usual active, outgoing self when she went to her doctor for a knee injury. The last thing she was thinking about was cancer; heart disease runs in her family. But as her doctor asked her when was the last time she had a mammogram, the thought crossed her mind.
“I like to say I’m pleasantly plump, but otherwise I’m healthy,” says Camarena, a 60-year-old mother and grandmother. “When they told me they found breast cancer, I took it pretty well. I’ve never been the type of person to be sad or negative.” She was referred to Dr. Rodolfo Arcovedo, a surgeon affiliated with Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center, who discussed surgery options with her.
“I told him, ‘Let’s cut my breast off,’ because I was worried about the risk of radiation to my heart, given my family history,” Camarena remembers. “He said, ‘We don’t have to do that. The good news is we found the cancer early.’”
Dr. Arcovedo performed a lumpectomy to remove the cancerous breast tissue and told Camarena about a radiation treatment available at Sharp Chula Vista’s Douglas & Nancy Barnhart Cancer Center. Called SAVI, the treatment uses thin tubes to deliver radiation directly to the lumpectomy site, minimizing exposure to the nearby heart. An additional benefit to Camarena — who works at the North Island Navy Exchange and takes care of her 89-year-old mom — is that SAVI treatment is finished in just five days.
“It all comes down to what is best for the patient,” says Dr. Phillip Zentner, medical director of radiation oncology at the Barnhart Cancer Center. “That’s the beauty of how far breast cancer treatment has advanced — we’re able to tailor treatment to the individual patient. In planning Camarena’s treatment, we felt confident that SAVI, in combination with surgery, would successfully treat the cancer and be a great choice for her.”
Despite the reason, Camarena looked forward to coming to the Barnhart Cancer Center for treatment twice a day, for five days. The only thing that bothered her was not having a bra that was comfortable while the treatment tubes were inserted in her breast. Upon learning this, Camarena’s nurse gave her a bra from the Barnhart Cancer Center’s boutique that was a perfect fit.
“I’d had trouble finding the right bra. I tried bigger sizes, different styles — nothing worked until this one I was given from the boutique. It made me much more comfortable,” she says.
Now that she has finished treatment, Camarena is on a mission to do what was done for her: empower other women to not let breast cancer take over their life.
“I had a good friend who wasn’t as lucky and lost her battle,” she recalls. “Before she passed away, she told me, ‘If you ever get this disease, don’t let it take you.’ I remembered that when I was diagnosed. My daughter now has an appointment for a mammogram.”
For the news media: To talk with Dr. Zentner about SAVI treatment for breast cancer for an upcoming story, contact Erica Carlson, senior public relations specialist, at email@example.com.