Decade-long Broward Health patient Maria Fahmie takes breast health seriously, particularly because her mother is a stage 3 breast cancer survivor. The Hollywood resident loves swimming in the ocean, riding her bike and dancing. She makes it a priority to schedule her annual routine mammograms and ultrasounds at the Lillian S. Wells Women’s Health Center at Broward Health Medical Center.
“I could go somewhere closer to home, but I’ve been receiving my health screenings at Broward Health for the past 10 years and by going to the same health facility, I know that my mammograms and ultrasounds can be easily compared from year to year,” said Fahmie.
Fahmie underwent a mammogram in February 2023 that indicated no presence of breast cancer, but an ultrasound revealed a small lump that prompted a biopsy. Fahmie did not worry too much at first, as previous procedures had shown no signs of cancer. However, it wasn't until a second biopsy was requested that she began to feel concerned.
Fahmie was diagnosed with stage 1 invasive lobular carcinoma, which can be cured if detected early.
“I am extremely thankful to the radiologist at Broward Health who reviewed my results because the mass was tiny,” said Fahmie. “He had his good ‘Xray eyes’ on that day. If my cancer hadn’t been caught early, I would be looking at a very different medical scenario.”
According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, invasive lobular carcinoma is the second most common type of breast cancer, accounting for more than 10% of invasive breast cancers. This type of breast cancer, which starts in the milk-producing gland, or lobules, of the breast and spreads into surrounding breast tissue, isn’t always clear on a mammogram, thus the need for additional testing.
“While invasive lobular carcinoma grows slowly, if left untreated it can spread to nearby lymph nodes and then to other areas of the body,” said Alia Abdulla, D.O., a breast surgical oncologist with the Broward Health Physician Group who treated Fahmie. “Maria's experience serves as a critical reminder to women to schedule and attend their breast cancer screening appointments. Early detection can save lives.”
After having a lumpectomy, Fahmie underwent chemotherapy and radiation treatments. She has already completed four rounds of intensive chemotherapy and is handling her treatments with mindfulness focusing on being present each day.
“Everyone was very reassuring and comforting,” Fahmie said. “I really felt like Dr. Abdulla was on this journey with me, which made all the difference.”
Now in her second phase of chemotherapy, Fahmie is undergoing 12 additional weekly treatments. She will then undergo six weeks of radiation on her right breast and has high hopes of wrapping up her treatments and being cancer-free in February, just a year after her original diagnosis.
“Everyone at Broward Health has been very supportive,” Fahmie said. “The incredible nurses at the infusion center work together as a team to offer patients the best possible care.”
In the meantime, the 52-year-old mom is focused on regaining her strength and getting healthy again. She wears a signature ornate “bra crown” graciously gifted to her by a friend who is also a cancer survivor.
“It’s called a boobie crown, made by The Boobie Queen Company, which is a nonprofit with a mission to crown women who have been affected by breast cancer,” Fahmie said. “The company inspires women to celebrate themselves through empowerment programs.”
Fahmie isn’t wasting any energy thinking about the past or the future. Instead, she holds her crown high, celebrating today.
“As with any life struggle, you just have to take one step at a time and live in the present,” said Fahmie. “How well you live and take care of yourself in this moment will ensure your future.”
To enhance early detection, Dr. Abdulla recommends the following:
• Pay attention to breast changes, including nipple discharge and changes in appearance, lumps, skin texture changes and pain.
• Perform breast self-exams. • Receive a clinical breast exam during annual visits to gynecologists, family physicians, or breast specialists.
• Women 40 and older at risk of breast cancer should receive a mammogram every one or two years.
• Women who have an increased risk of breast cancer due to family and genetic factors, dense breasts or cysts may require additional annual tests such as ultrasound, MRI or biopsy.
• Speak to your healthcare provider to develop the best course of action for your individual circumstances.
To learn more about Broward Health breast cancer screenings, visit BrowardHealth.org/BreastCancer.