Early Detection Saves Lives:

Proactive Health Monitoring at Ingalls Makes an Impact

Identifying health issues before they become serious is one of the best ways to stay healthy. The earlier a condition is diagnosed, the better the chance for a cure or successful treatment. That’s why prevention and early detection have been the driving force behind the annual Southland Health Fair since it made its debut more than 33 years ago. Co-sponsored and staffed by Ingalls health experts, the fair has helped save many lives over the years. Here are two recent examples of how early detection can make all the difference:

Bobbee's Story

Most of the time, breast pain is harmless, caused by changing hormone levels. That’s why it’s most common before menstruation, during early pregnancy and in menopause.

In rare cases, however, it can be a sign of breast cancer.

Seventy-one-year-old Bobbee Braul has dense breasts and for years suffered with an inexplicable ache in her right breast. Last year – like she has for the past several years – the Harvey resident attended the Ingallssponsored Southland Health Fair and had a clinical breast exam performed by Advanced Oncology Certified Nurse Practitioner Karen Masino.

To Bobbee’s dismay, Karen felt a tiny lump. Shortly after the health fair, Bobbee received a call from the Ingalls Breast Center to schedule a mammogram – something she hadn’t done in years.

“I haven’t had regular mammograms because I wasn’t able to afford them,” she explains.

When they learned of her need, the Breast Center connected Bobbee with A Silver Lining Foundation, which helped cover the cost of her initial mammogram, a second diagnostic mammogram and breast ultrasound.

Bobbee eventually received the diagnosis she was dreading: breast cancer. But it was caught early.

breast cancer survivor at work

As she does with most things, the energetic carpenter and home rehabber handled a lumpectomy, lymph node removal and radiation therapy at Ingalls like a pro. But when radiation fibrosis and lymphedema caused pain and swelling in her right chest area and arm – and threatened her livelihood – Bobbee knew she needed special care fast. That’s when her cancer specialist James Wallace, M.D. referred her to the Ingalls STAR Program for therapy.

Highly trained physical therapists and lymphedema specialists Deanna Moody and Lata Pillai at Ingalls in Flossmoor taught Bobbee massage techniques to help soften radiation fibrosis scar tissue and drain lymphatic fluid from her swollen underarm and chest. She continues to perform them faithfully every day. Without them, she says, pain is back! They also made her a tight-fitting foam pad to control the pain and recommended a compression sleeve for her arm.

“My Ingalls team was a godsend,” she adds. “And the health fair is wonderful because it provides the ability for early detection, which is fantastic for those who can’t afford a doctor.”

Bobbee, who also writes autographical short stories, says her cancer story is yet to be written. But thanks to early detection and the care she received through Ingalls, it will have a happy ending.

Arthur's Story

A colorful, full-page ad caught the eye of 66-year-old Arthur Gray as he rifled through the pages of a Chicago newspaper earlier this year.

It promoted the May 21 Southland Health Fair at the Matteson Community Center and described more than 25 free health screenings from head to toe.

“I periodically take advantage of free offerings,” he explains, “and this one seemed really comprehensive.” So the Chicago man added it to his calendar.

On the day of the fair, Arthur was waiting in line for a blood test when he noticed the nearby line for skin checks was shorter. So he moved over.

That simple, impromptu decision helped save Arthur’s life when general surgeon and wound specialist Michael Romberg, M.D., detected two suspicious lesions, one on Arthur’s right forearm and the other on his back.

“The spot on my arm was about the size of a pencil eraser and dark in color,” he explains. “I’ve had it for a while, but this was the first time I had it checked by a doctor.”

Dr. Romberg encouraged Arthur to follow up with him at his office for biopsies. A couple weeks later, he received word that the spot on his right forearm was melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer.

Arthur was stunned when he received the news. But the former lifeguard and competitive swimmer with fair skin and blonde hair admits he spent a lot of time in the sun when he was younger with little or no sun protection.

melanoma patient with doctor

Sunburns, excessive sun exposure and fair skin are leading risk factors for melanoma, which develops in the cells that produce melanin – the pigment that gives skin its color. More than 200,000 Americans will be diagnosed with melanoma this year alone.

“Fortunately, it was detected early,” Dr. Romberg said. “But that’s not always the case; in fact, an estimated 10,130 people will die of melanoma in 2016.”

Arthur had a second surgery in June to remove the cancerous lesion and a single lymph node. Dr. Romberg completed the procedure with a skin graft to help the wound heal.

Because it was caught early, Arthur didn’t need additional treatment.

“I pretty much dodged a bullet,” the retired schoolteacher and father of three adds. “I’m very grateful to Dr. Romberg. He acted quickly and did a very thorough job.”

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