Breast Cancer Patient Stories

Our team of experts at NYU Langone’s Perlmutter Cancer Center combines leading research with excellent clinical care to deliver the most effective treatment for breast cancer.

We diagnose and treat all stages and types of breast cancer, including more advanced types of breast cancer and male breast cancer. We also provide preventive treatment for people who are at high risk of breast cancer.

Using the latest techniques and technology, our team develops a treatment plan for each patient, based on the specific genetic profile of the breast cancer. Our patients share stories of their breast cancer diagnosis, treatment, and recovery.

Rachel’s Story About Preventive Treatment for Breast Cancer

“Thanks to my physician, I will live to see my children grow, graduate, and get married.”

—Rachel, Age 44

Rachel was only 14 years old when she lost her mother. She didn’t learn until she was older that her 41-year-old mother had died of metastatic breast cancer and that as a teenager she had lost her own mother to colorectal cancer.

When Rachel was 20, her gynecologist asked about her family history during an annual visit and recommended genetic testing to better understand her hereditary risk for cancer. She received a positive test result for an inherited mutation in the BRCA1 gene that put her at higher risk for breast and ovarian cancer. Although Rachel met with a genetic counselor to discuss the results, she wasn’t prepared for the potential impact on her life. “I walked with that knowledge for many years, but simply blocked it all out,” she says.

Rachel was 32, engaged to be married, and working as a surgical technologist at a hospital when she felt ready to act on that knowledge. That’s when a friend encouraged her to see a specialist and recommended Dr. Freya R. Schnabel, an oncologist and director of breast surgery at NYU Langone’s Perlmutter Cancer Center.

Dr. Schnabel evaluated Rachel’s family and medical history and genetic test results, and discussed risk factors and options for preventive treatments. Dr. Schnabel also talked with Rachel about her plans to build her family and whether she wanted to have children—a decision that she had put on hold because of her potential cancer risk.

In consultation with Rachel, Dr. Schnabel recommended that she continue to have regular breast cancer screenings but wait until age 40 to have preventive surgery to reduce her risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer. With that advice, Rachel felt more reassured about the road ahead and went on to marry and have two children, a boy and a girl, over the next few years. “Dr. Schnabel is more than just my doctor, she’s like a family member,” Rachel says.

When she turned 40, Rachel had surgery to remove her ovaries and fallopian tubes. As an added precaution, she also chose to have a hysterectomy. Two years later, she had a bilateral mastectomy to remove both breasts, a procedure that was performed by Dr. Schnabel, followed by breast reconstruction surgery by Dr. Nolan S. Karp.

At age 44, Rachel is free of the anxiety that she once felt about her future. Recently, she completed her master’s degree and training in school and mental health counseling and plans to work with young adults on mental health and wellness. Most of all, she’s enjoying watching her own children grow and being there for them throughout their lives. “With Dr. Schnabel’s guidance, I know I made the right decision. I didn’t want my children to lose their mother the way I did,” she says.

Laurie’s Story About Stage IA Invasive Ductal Carcinoma Treatment

“I am back to doing what I love. I went skiing in France over the Christmas holiday, and I’m working out with my trainer three times a week.”

—Laurie, Age 52

When Laurie, a 52-year-old financial advisor from New Jersey, went to the doctor for her annual mammogram and ultrasound, she was expecting it to be a routine visit. Though Laurie has no family history of breast cancer, an ultrasound technician noticed a lump during her scan. She was advised to get a biopsy, which revealed early stage breast cancer.

Because she receives all of her medical care at NYU Langone, her gynecologist referred her to oncologist Dr. Marleen I. Meyers and breast surgeon Dr. Deborah M. Axelrod at Perlmutter Cancer Center.

“I walked into my initial consultation with Dr. Meyers with a sense of dread, but she was so reassuring, patient, and receptive that I left thinking, ‘OK, I can do this,’” recalls Laurie, who was diagnosed with stage IA invasive ductal carcinoma. She also tested positive for a gene mutation called human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2), which makes an excess of proteins that promote the growth of cancer cells.

As part of her treatment, Laurie had surgery to remove the breast cancer, called a lumpectomy, followed by 12 weeks of chemotherapy. This was followed by one year of targeted therapy designed to attack the HER2-positive breast cancer, and three weeks of radiation therapy. “Before my surgery, Dr. Axelrod and her team answered all my questions and explained everything step by step. I wasn’t nervous at all—it was a very smooth process.”

During her treatment at NYU Langone, Laurie especially appreciated not having to worry about administrative hurdles and just focusing her energy on getting better. “I would leave the doctor’s office and be able to see details of my visit and upcoming appointments, and also view test results all through the NYU Langone Health app.”

A year after her treatment ended, Laurie, is now cancer-free and continues to see her oncologists at follow-up visits. “I am back to doing what I love. I went skiing in France over the Christmas holiday, and I’m working out with my trainer three times a week,” she says.

Roselle’s Story About Stage IIB Invasive Ductal Carcinoma Treatment

“You can expect the best treatment at NYU Langone and Perlmutter Cancer Center. I wouldn’t go anywhere else.”

—Roselle, Age 57

Roselle, 57, was living and working in Greenport, Long Island, when she found a lump in her left breast during a self-exam in September 2018. After a biopsy, she received a diagnosis of stage IIB bilateral invasive ductal carcinoma, a more advanced form of breast cancer that affects both breasts and has also spread to the lymph nodes.

Seeking the best care, Roselle made an appointment at NYU Langone’s Perlmutter Cancer Center. Although she would need to travel for treatment, Roselle knew immediately that she had made the right decision. “My doctors took the time to explain everything and were always responsive. If I had any questions, I could call or email them, and they would always get back,” she says.

Roselle says she is grateful for the compassionate, thoughtful care she received throughout her treatment. To ease the anxiety and claustrophobia she experienced during an MRI, her oncology nurse prescribed her anti-anxiety medication in advance and the technicians played Beethoven to help her relax. Her nurses also prepared her for chemotherapy by providing a list of medications to ease possible side effects while making every effort to ensure her comfort.

“The infusion room was very comfortable, and I had complete privacy. The nurses would ask if I wanted a pillow and a neck massage or a foot massage. I felt like the ‘chemo queen,’” Roselle recalls.

After 16 weeks of chemotherapy to shrink the tumors, breast surgeon Dr. Amber A. Guth recommended a double mastectomy and removal of lymph nodes from under her right arm, as well as a sentinel node biopsy under her left arm to test for the presence of cancer in nearby lymph nodes.

Following surgery in May 2019, radiation oncologist Dr. Carmen A. Perez prescribed radiation therapy for five weeks. A Perlmutter Cancer Center social worker connected Roselle with a program that provided her with free housing, so she wouldn’t have to travel for daily radiation therapy sessions.

In August 2019, Roselle completed her treatment. After a trip to Italy to celebrate being cancer-free, she is now back to her normal routine as a musician and a translator for the local courts and police. Roselle continues to follow up with her oncologist, Dr. Maryann J. Kwa, and has moved all her healthcare to NYU Langone. “You can expect the best treatment at NYU Langone and Perlmutter Cancer Center. I wouldn’t go anywhere else.”