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by: TIDINGS PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Because a 3-D mammogram caught her cancer early, Brooke Snyder was able to have it removed completely through a mastectomy procedure. Brooke Snyder thought she was in the clear.

Seven years — that was supposed to be the cutoff point for breast cancer recurrence after remission. Snyder was a 10-year survivor when she went in for her annual checkup in July, this time utilizing a new three-dimensional mammogram technology introduced earlier this year at Legacy Meridian Park Medical Center.

The scan took multiple images in different layers of her breasts, allowing for a more complete view than two-dimensional mammograms ever provided. If there was a suspicious growth, doctors could catch it far earlier and thus drastically increase her chance of survival.

But Snyder, a West Linn resident, expected the same thing she always had since hitting the seven-year plateau in 2010: nothing unusual. When the hospital left her a voicemail after the appointment, there was no indication of anything serious. She assumed it was just a call to follow up and make sure her visit was satisfactory.

The news was actually much more serious. The mammogram had detected a lump deep inside Snyder’s breast, and the doctors wanted her to come back for more tests.

A follow-up ultrasound and needle-guided biopsy confirmed Snyder’s worst fear: Her cancer had returned.

“I was just devastated,” Snyder said. “How could this happen? How could I go through another winter of chemotherapy?”

At that point, Synder considered forgoing treatment. She would be 60 in November and had already survived three separate cancers. (Along with her first breast cancer, Snyder also battled skin cancer and a rare, nonlethal cancer of the lymphocytes.) Maybe she was lucky to have even made it this far.

“But I just had to turn my thought process around,” Snyder said.

And she had good reason to. The cancer was still in stage one, when the survival rate is 98 percent, according to Legacy Meridian Park officials. However, because Snyder could not receive radiation treatment for a second time on the same breast, she would have to resort to the only other option — a mastectomy.

“The only option was to have my breast removed,” Snyder said. “They did an MRI of my chest to see where the cells were, and they were able to determine that it wasn’t in the other breast. So now I have one breast and am in reconstruction for the other.”

The reconstruction will be nearly complete in January, when Snyder will have surgery to put an implant in the area where her breast was removed. It’s a significant loss to deal with in the meantime, but one Snyder is perfectly willing to accept if it means being cancer-free and avoiding the pain of chemotherapy and radiation.

“I tease my friends that I’m going to have a hairy winter,” Snyder said. “I was just really apprehensive to have chemotherapy again.”

With that prospect behind her, Snyder’s initial devastation has given way to cautious optimism.

“I actually came to say to myself, ‘I get to survive cancer for the fourth time,’” Snyder said. “That sounds very strange, but if you know that you have a purpose that God will use this for, you can become stronger and better and help others.”

Indeed, Snyder is a woman of strong faith who feels it is her calling to spread the word about the importance of mammograms.

“I think God uses people’s trials to help other people,” Snyder said. “I have talked up my story with my friends, and I’ve got four friends having their mammograms that were letting them slide before.”

And undergoing a three-dimensional mammogram is well worth the extra effort. According to Dr. Andy Cramer, a general and vascular surgeon at Legacy Meridian Park, Snyder’s cancer might have gone undetected for as long as a year without the new technology.

“That’s the point of the technology, to get it as early as we could,” Cramer said. “Because who knows what could happen in a year?”

In Snyder’s case, by next year she plans to return from a sabbatical as an instructional assistant at Cedaroak Park Primary School in West Linn. She’ll visit with her daughters, 31-year-old Kate and 18-year-old twins Sami and Aubree, and her two grandchildren.

She’ll live her life and wait for her next seven-year milestone. To learn more about three-dimensional mammograms, visit www.legacyhealth.org.

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