When it comes to breast cancer, we've all heard that early detection saves lives. But early treatment is just as crucial.
A decade of research is revealing that delays in care can impact survival. Now, a new breast center is working to address this growing concern.
The grand opening of the Sam and Grace Carvajal Comprehensive Breast Center in Glendale represents survival for 57-year-old Norma Avila of Compton.
"I feel safe. I feel that I'm going to be better," Avila said.
That's far different than how she felt before she came to Adventist Health Glendale.
Avila was diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer last July. But confusion, cancellations and being shuffled from doctor to doctor delayed her from getting surgery for nine months. All that time, Norma felt scared and anxious.
"I had my family. I have grandkids. My daughter. My son. And going back and forth, going back and forth, of course I was very frustrated," Avila said.
During that delay, her tumor grew and started to spread.
"And they found some other ones. Small ones and it was in Stage 3," she said.
In a recent study published in Cancer Medicine, researchers found each 60-day delay in surgery was associated with a 26% increased risk of death due to breast cancer in nonmetastatic patients.
"The longer it takes, the worse the survival. It's not just a matter of anxiety. It's a matter of getting the patient diagnosed and treated efficiently," said breast cancer surgeon Dr. Dennis Holmes with Adventist Health Glendale.
Researchers also found prompt treatment within 90 days can significantly increase a woman's chances of survival. Holmes said reducing the time between a patient's diagnosis and treatment is a mandate at the new center.
"We have a principle and a policy that patients who are newly diagnosed with breast cancer... that we're going to get them an appointment within one or two days so that they can get in the process quicker," he said.
When Avila sought out new referrals and reviewed Dr. Holmes' experience, she reached out right away.
"They gave me the appointment. I went to see him on a Thursday and on Monday he did the surgery," Avila said.
Next for Avila will be radiation. It took her far too long to find the proper care. Now she wants other women to know how important it is not to wait.