Resource Blog/Media/MCI Wang Stouffer HERO


First Mammogram is a Lifesaver for Palmetto Bay Mom

Baptist Health Miami Cancer Institute

Monica McConaughy Stouffer will never forget her first mammogram. As she sat in the waiting room in her white robe, she looked around the room. She knew the statistics and understood it likely meant that someone nearby had breast cancer. “Never in a million years did I think it would be me,” she recalls.


But it was.


(Watch now: When Monica Stouffer had her first mammogram, she knew that some women in the waiting room would learn they have breast cancer. “Never in a million years did I think it would be me, however.” But it was. Video by Alcyene de Almeida Rodrigues.)


“I had no family history. No symptoms. I exercised. I ate right,” she recalls. “It was kind of a shock for everyone. It took my breath away.” At the time of her breast cancer diagnosis 13 years ago, Ms. Stouffer was 42, had started a durable medical equipment business and had four children ranging in age from 4 to 8.


Today the Palmetto Bay mother is cancer-free. She’s still running her business, and along with her husband, Jeff, enjoys traveling and watching their children thrive in college. Simply put, she says, the mammogram ― and the double mastectomy that followed at Baptist Health Miami Cancer Institute ― saved her life.


There is a 1 in 8 chance that a woman will develop breast cancer with nearly 370,000 new cases expected to be diagnosed in women in the U.S. this year, according to the American Cancer Society. The good news is that breakthrough treatments are responsible for a decline in breast cancer deaths over the last four decades. Yet it is still the second-leading cause of cancer death (behind lung cancer) in women and there is a disturbing new trend that doctors are following closely.


“We are seeing a higher incidence of breast cancer below the age of 50,” says Grace Wang, M.D., a Miami Cancer Institute medical oncologist who was the first physician in her medical group years ago to specialize in breast cancer. “The American Cancer Society stated the rate has increased by about 1 percent per year. Most of the tumors tend to be hormone-sensitive.”


Dr. Wang Headshot

Grace Wang, M.D., medical oncologist with Baptist Health Miami Cancer Institute


For Dr. Wang, educating women about decreasing their risk factors is a priority. “There are some risk factors that you cannot lower, such as being a woman, aging, genetic factors, family history or the age you were at the time of your first period,” she says. “But there are modifiable risk factors that are important to understand.”


Among the modifiable risk factors are:


·       Diet ― “A fatty diet and one that is high in red meat, increases your risk of breast cancer,” Dr. Wang explains.

·       Weight ― “For every five-point increase in your BMI (body mass index), your risk of breast cancer goes up 18 percent,” she says.

·       Alcohol intake ― One to two alcoholic beverages a day raises risk by 10 to 20 percent. Three drinks increases risk by 30 percent.

·       Exercise ― Women with a sedentary lifestyle are much more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer than women who exercise regularly. “A large study of 25,000 Norwegian women showed that if you did fast walking four hours a week, you cut your risk by about a quarter,” Dr. Wang says.

·       Hormone therapy ― Women should talk to their primary care physicians or OB/gyns about the use of hormone therapy and their individual risk.


Just as important, she adds, is speaking to your doctor about screening mammograms. Last year, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force updated its guidance, saying that all women should be screened at least every other year, beginning at age 40. Oncologists with Baptist Health Cancer Care follow the recommendation of the American College of Radiology, which advises yearly mammograms beginning at age 40 for women of average risk. Women with dense breasts or those determined to be at higher risk may begin screening earlier and/or undergo additional imaging studies.


Any woman with symptoms that include a lump, a change in size or shape of the breast or a nipple discharge, should see her healthcare provider as soon as possible.


Ms. Stouffer’s cancer, caught early, did not require treatment with chemotherapy or radiation, and genetic testing at the time revealed no known mutations. At her recent yearly follow-up with Dr. Wang, however, new genetic testing was recommended because advances now make it possible to check for many more mutations that are linked to cancer.


Much has changed since Dr. Wang first began seeing breast cancer patients more than four decades ago. “It’s quite exciting to see how treatments have evolved, especially in the last 10 years,” she says.


Increased survival and better quality of life have been driven by the development of targeted therapies, immunotherapy, new drugs for chemotherapy and newer forms of radiation, such as brachytherapy, which uses tiny radioactive particles or seeds placed into the breast tissue temporarily to kill any remaining cancer cells.


Miami Cancer Institute physicians lead and participate in clinical trials that have led to the transformation of care, Dr. Wang says. Yet with the rapid progress in breast cancer treatment, one constant has remained for her, and that is building a strong relationship with her patients.


“I set aside two hours to see a new patient so that I’m able to educate patients and their families about their cancer,” Dr. Wang says. In addition, because many patients have questions about changing their lifestyle, they discuss risk factors, vitamins and supplements, managing stress and other ways patients can reduce their future cancer risk.


This personal attention is one of the things Ms. Stouffer values most about the Institute. “I love Dr. Wang. She is my hero. The first time I met Dr. Wang I was very nervous. Post-operatively, she was concerned about what I was thinking, how I was feeling. I honestly look forward to my visits with Dr. Wang. She calms me, educates me and keeps me informed of everything that is new out there.”


Ms. Stouffer speaks the same way about her Miami Cancer Institute breast surgeon, Gladys Giron, M.D. “She’s amazing. I know that I wasn’t her only patient with breast cancer, but at that moment, I felt like I was. And it felt like she was not on a time schedule. I trusted her 100 percent. She made me feel secure.”


Dr. Giron

Gladys Giron, M.D., breast surgeon with Baptist Health Miami Cancer Institute

Compassion aside, Dr. Wang says the Institute is ideal for patients because there are so many services for patients under one roof ― from physicians and clinics, to navigators, nutritionists and pharmacists to exercise and survivorship programs.


“I think our patients appreciate that our team cares about them,” says Dr. Wang. “It’s really a sophisticated center and yet it’s very easy for everyone to communicate. I’m very proud to be working here.”


Miami Cancer Institute is here to support you through every stage of your breast health journey, beginning with getting your mammogram at any of our diagnostic imaging locations. Request a mammogram today by visiting or through the Baptist Health PineApp.

Healthcare that Cares

With internationally renowned centers of excellence, 12 hospitals, more than 27,000 employees, 4,000 physicians and 200 outpatient centers, urgent care facilities and physician practices spanning across Miami-Dade, Monroe, Broward and Palm Beach counties, Baptist Health is an anchor institution of the South Florida communities we serve.

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