Early Detection Helps WellSpan Patient Overcome Breast Cancer

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Terri Conrad-Linka of Greencastle says early detection and treatment were key in her breast cancer recovery.

Terri Conrad-Linka of Greencastle says early detection and treatment were key in her breast cancer recovery.

Before her breast cancer diagnosis, it had been several years since Conrad-Linka last received a mammogram. The 51-year old Greencastle resident admits that she had not been as vigilant about her breast health as she should have been.

A lesion on Conrad-Linka’s left nipple had been disappearing and reappearing for about a year by the time she visited her family doctor in December 2019.

“Going into that appointment, I honestly did not think that it was breast cancer,” Conrad-Linka says. “My physician, however, immediately thought there was a good chance I had breast cancer. She moved quickly to set me up for a mammogram, and then got me to see Dr. Plzak [Catherine Plzak, MD, surgeon] at WellSpan Breast Care.”

Conrad-Linka lost her father to renal cancer and her brother to pancreatic cancer, so her diagnosis was particularly worrisome for her.

“There is a lot of cancer in my family, but no cancer survivors, so I was terrified,” Conrad-Linka recalls. “The first thing I thought about was my husband and our 10-year old daughter. I thought about everyone else, and it was hard to watch my husband worry about me.”

Conrad-Linka’s mind was put at ease, though, by her treatment team at WellSpan Breast Care, who assured her that she would be taken care of.

“I am beyond thankful for everyone at WellSpan, who were so reassuring throughout my journey,” Conrad-Linka says. “I have nothing but good things to say about Dr. Plzak and her team. They were very informative, and equally as compassionate. As scary as this was, I wouldn’t have wanted to go through it with anyone else.”

Dr. Plzak laid out a treatment plan for Conrad-Linka, which would include a mastectomy of the left breast. Conrad-Linka instead decided to have a double mastectomy.

Conrad-Linka is now cancer-free. She has undergone reconstructive surgery, performed by Wayne Ledinh, MD.

“Removing the cancer is obviously the top priority, but there is such an emotional response when finding out you need to have a mastectomy,” Conrad-Linka says. “It is so reassuring to know that you can look just like your pre-cancer self, if not even better. Feeling good about yourself is such a big part of recovery, and he really did such good work.”

“A mastectomy is a difficult decision for many women facing breast cancer,” Dr. Ledinh says. “I work very closely with the breast surgeons to start reconstruction at the same time as the mastectomy to improve the final cosmetic result, reduce additional surgeries, and to allow women to wake up from surgery and retain their femininity with at least the start of a breast.”

The Importance of Regular Screenings

“Early detection of breast cancer can help improve the quality of life for patients, giving them more treatment options which are less invasive, less disfiguring and less toxic with fewer long-term complications,” Dr. Plzak says. “Women need to become familiar with the usual way their breasts look and feel, and report any changes. WellSpan is constantly investing in the latest technology to improve the outcomes for our patients and stay a healthy step ahead of breast cancer.”

Conrad-Linka now hopes her story can be a reminder to others to get regular screenings for breast cancer. Conrad-Linka often thinks about how different her life could be if she hadn’t talked to her doctor.

“If I hadn’t have gone to get that mammogram, my story could have ended up completely different,” Conrad-Linka says. “The cancer could have spread to my lymph nodes. I’m all over my friends now about getting them, as well as my family members. It’s just so important.”

For more information on breast care services offered at WellSpan, visit WellSpan.org/BreastCare.