If Breast Cancer Strikes, We’re Here for You

Feature Story
Sheila Zoerner with husband Charlie, left, and Dr. Tanvir Sattar, right.
Sheila Zoerner with her husband Charlie, left, and Dr. Tanvir Sattar.

While the risk of breast cancer increases after 40, it can strike at any age. If you or a loved one has ever faced this condition, you know that early detection is key. Regular mammograms and other screenings can help catch symptoms so treatment can begin as soon as possible.

If breast cancer is found, Kaiser Permanente has a team of specialists that will work together to help you get the quality care you need.

Specialists ready to support you every step of the way

When Sheila Zoerner first noticed symptoms, she didn’t waste time. “I was shocked when I felt the lump,” the 69-year-old member said. She visited her Kaiser Permanente gynecologist, who ordered a mammogram and a sonogram. This led to a quick diagnosis: Shelia had HER2-positive breast cancer, an aggressive cancer that would require a mastectomy.

Sheila and her husband, Charlie, then met with the multidisciplinary team of cancer specialists that would care for her — her oncologist, Tanvir Sattar, MD; her surgeon; a radiologist; a plastic surgeon; a clinical nurse; a nutritionist; and others. They were all connected to Sheila’s electronic health record, which made it easy to work together to provide quick, personalized treatment through all stages of care.

With this highly trained team supporting them, Sheila and her husband were reassured. “Knowing there were that many people looking at me at the same time made us feel really confident,” she said.

Putting research to work for you

While preparing for her mastectomy, Sheila got more bad news. A bone biopsy confirmed that the cancer had spread to her spine. “The next day we called Dr. Sattar and he came in … and answered every last question we had,” she remembered.

Dr. Sattar also recommended that Sheila enroll in a clinical trial involving an experimental immunotherapy drug called Pertuzumab. It was being tested for its ability to help her immune system to slow or stop the spread of cancer. While all clinical trials involve some risk, Sheila decided that if the new drug might help her condition, she was willing to try it.

Sheila Zoerner with “Miss 100” sash

Happily, Sheila’s treatment worked. After 7 rounds of chemotherapy combined with her drug therapy, all signs of cancer were gone. For the past 5 years, she’s been cancer-free. Plus, based on results from the clinical trial Sheila participated in, the Food and Drug Administration approved the use of Pertuzumab a few years ago as part of breast cancer treatment.*

A cause to celebrate

This February, Sheila visited our Walnut Creek Medical Center for her 100th immunotherapy treatment.During her visit, the entire oncology staff surprised her and presented her with a “Miss 100” sash, signed a memory book for her, and even decorated her treatment station.

“I’m very grateful for Kaiser Permanente and for where I’m at, and what I’ve been able to learn and accomplish over the past 6 years,” Sheila said. “I’m not afraid anymore.”

To learn more about breast cancer and the wide range of care and support available at Kaiser Permanente, visit kp.org/breastcancer today. For information on our clinical trials program, go here.

Do you have a story about cancer care at Kaiser Permanente? We’d love to hear it. Please send us an email at insidekp-ncal@kp.org.

* “FDA Approval for Pertuzumab,” National Cancer Institute, accessed June 24, 2016.