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The Importance of Early Detection: Michelle Cioffi’s Story

Michelle Cioffi has always prioritized her breast health, especially after her mother’s breast cancer diagnosis. Every year, she was diligent about having her annual screening.  

Then in October 2022, Michelle Cioffi noticed that the skin on her breast was itchy. She was not worried about the itch and chalked it up to catching something from days spent swimming in the lake. However, Michelle started to notice that cortisone did not seem to help relieve the itch and now she was feeling numbness in the area. Michelle was still not concerned because she had always been good about her breast care and routine screenings. Soon after the itching and numbness began, Michelle discovered a lump. Hoping it would clear up on its own since she just had that area of her breast checked out, Michelle waited a week before finally calling her primary care provider to have it checked. 

Michelle’s doctor sent her to get a mammogram and ultrasound. After her screenings, Michelle waited to review the results with Dr. Lucy Lane of Northwestern Medical Center Diagnostic Imaging. That’s when Michelle received the news she was not expecting to hear, she had breast cancer. Dr. Lane explained all possible treatment options and immediately scheduled a biopsy to confirm the diagnosis and type of cancer.  

The biopsy confirmed Michelle had Stage 1 Breast Cancer. Because Michelle was aware of her skin changes and making an appointment with her primary care provider, she was able to catch the cancer early. Had she waited until her mammogram was due in January 2023, her diagnosis, treatment, and outcome could have been quite different.  

“Listen to your body. If you notice changes you can’t explain, trust your instinct. And get your screenings! They are not just for you but for your loved ones”, Michelle says looking back on her experience. She continues by saying, “Early detection is extremely important and so easy. It can mean being diagnosed months prior to feeling a lump. Also, having a mammogram on a regular basis can show changes in tissue from one year to the next. These slight changes can help radiologists diagnose us.” 

Michelle was incredibly grateful for the care and compassion she received at Northwestern Medical Center. Every member of her care team from Dr. Lane to the Breast Care Navigator Chelsea Mulheron, RN, and Dr. Suppan in Pathology, all went above and beyond to make sure Michelle received top-level care and that all her questions and fears were met with compassion. She also had her pre-chemo labs drawn at the NMC Infusion Center rather than traveling to Burlington. “I feel my care from all of these teams was amazing and patient focused. Believe me…I refer my friends and family to NMC any chance I get.”  

If you or a loved one is experiencing a similar diagnosis or illness, Michelle offers this advice, “a positive attitude is very important. Try to look on the bright side of things. Keep your mind busy. It is okay to take time to cry, scream, and sulk but pick yourself up and enjoy all the good moments with your family and friends. This time will pass, and you’ll be more resilient because of it.”