Trading Places: When A Radiologist Becomes A Breast Cancer Patient

A few years ago, Kimberly Hutcherson, M.D., discovered something in herself that she has spent her lifetime training to find in others—breast cancer.  As a radiologist specializing in mammography, Dr. Hutcherson has diagnosed people with the disease for the past more than a decade, but that didn’t make it any less shocking to find it in her own body.

Dr. Hutcherson diagnosed the cancer in herself on Feb. 23, 2007, after experiencing sharp breast pain off and on for nearly two months. Her previous mammogram, taken nine months before, had been normal. With no history of breast cancer in her family, she says she doubted that any serious abnormalities would show up. Even when the mass in her breast appeared on the monitor, she says she still doubted its severity, hoping that it was just a cyst. “I prayed that maybe it wasn’t what I thought, even though I prayed every day prior that I could see the problem to help my patients,” Dr. Hutcherson says.

Read about Dr. Hutcherson's inspiring story.
Dr. Hutcherson

Following her mammogram, Dr. Hutcherson had a breast ultrasound and discovered that the mass was a cyst. Cynthia Robinson, M.D., a fellow radiologist at GMC, performed a biopsy on the cyst and found a cancerous mass inside. Dr. Hutcherson received the diagnosis the next day with her sister by her side. She had stage I breast cancer. 

Watching the clock
Some, like Kimberly Hutcherson, M.D., have additional training in women’s imaging. Christopher Hagenstad, M.D., performed a double mastectomy on Dr. Hutcherson shortly after her diagnosis. In addition to the surgery, she received chemotherapy, biologic therapy, hormonal therapy and a trial drug for stage I breast cancer.

Not knowing how it would affect her patients, Dr. Hutcherson resolved to keep the diagnosis private at first. But as she surrendered her wig and brought back her signature short hairstyle, she found herself ready to share.

“I have always told my patients to take one step at a time. First let’s find out what the breast abnormality is—and if it is cancer, then we’ll treat it. I had to take my own advice. I now tell them that my hair is short like this for a reason.”

A plan and a purpose
Dr. Hutcherson says that now, more than ever, she truly knows how her patients feel. She also says she is thankful every day that she is a women’s imaging radiologist.

“It is because of this that I was able to diagnose the cancer early,” she says. “I believe even with some of the complications I experienced, I was spared to help others by being able to diagnose this potentially curable disease early and aid my patients in getting through their treatment. There is never a testimony without a test.”

Today, Dr. Hutcherson is cancer-free.
All-digital imaging
Having to wait for extended periods of time for a diagnosis can increase anxiety for patients. Thankfully, digital mammography equipment, now available at all GMC facilities, allow patients to enjoy shorter exams and receive the diagnosis even faster. Digital mammography allows technologists to evaluate the quality of the images before removing the patient from the room and presenting the case to the radiologist, which reduces the amount of retakes. In addition, the technologists are specialty-trained in breast health and all GMC’s radiologists are board-certified. Schedule your mammogram today by calling 678-312-3444.

Spa or cancer treatment facility?
While the fear of a possible breast cancer diagnosis weighs on most women receiving mammograms, GMC-Lawrenceville and GMC – Duluth have gone the extra mile to provide a relaxing environment for women going through this difficult time. Warm spa-like robes, light snacks, specialty teas and flat-screen TVs are available to all patients to help ease anxiety and promote relaxation.

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