How one routine self-exam helped Tayonka Patton stop the rarest and most aggressive form of breast cancer.
For many families along the Mississippi Gulf Coast, June 28, 2018, was just another typical summer day. For Pascagoula native Tayonka Thomas Patton, it would become the day she would never forget.
After showering this particular Thursday morning, she performed the same routine self breast exam that she had performed one to two times a month for several years. This day, however, she detected a small lump she had not noticed before.
Taking no chances, she immediately scheduled an appointment with her OBGYN, Dr. Bosco, who confirmed her findings and ordered her first mammogram and ultrasound. At the age of forty, Tayonka was not in the age range recommended for yearly exams.
For many years, the American Cancer Society (ACS) recommended annual mammograms starting at age 40, but in October 2015, they issued new recommendations that women at average risk of breast cancer have the option to start screening every year at age 40 but should start annual mammograms from 45 – 54, and continue to undergo mammography every other year after that.
The mammogram and ultrasound performed by Singing River Radiologist, Dr. Polchow indicated the need for further testing, and Tayonka was referred to Dr. Bailey of South Mississippi Surgeons to perform a biopsy.
The findings were absolute. Tayonka was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer, which means her cancer cells tested negative for estrogen receptors (ER-), progesterone receptors (PR-) and HER2 (HER2-).
About 10-20% of breast cancers — more than one out of every 10 — are found to be triple-negative. Triple-negative breast cancer is typically treated with a combination of therapies such as surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy.
Dr. Bailey immediately referred Tayonka to Dr. Persing of Singing River Health System Regional Cancer Center for treatment.
Because Tayonka’s breast cancer was non-invasive, she learned she would not require chemotherapy.
“Early detection is key,” said Tayonka. “I was so fortunate to find it before it spread.”
Dr. Persing recommended gene testing to better understand her prognosis and risk factors in the future. Tayonka agreed, and discovered she was positive for a genetic mutation that indicated a higher risk for breast cancer.
After reviewing every option with Dr. Persing, Tayonka made the brave decision to undergo a double mastectomy to ensure the disease would never again impact her health–or her family.
“I have a will for living,” said Tayonka, who is married with three boys and also works full-time. “I want to do everything I can to ensure I’m here for my family.”
Tayonka derived strength and courage from the support system of her family and the unique collaboration among her care team.
“Dr. Bailey and Dr. Persing were always in constant communication with me,” she added. “They spent so much time explaining every step along the way that I knew exactly what to expect. I knew the game plan.”
Tayonka was thankful to receive care at Singing River Health System so she could stay home surrounded by those she loves.
“It’s been a journey,” said Tayonka, “ but after surgery I will still be me. That’s what makes me even stronger and more confident in my decision.”
To learn more about Singing River Health System Regional Cancer Center, its physician team and treatment services, visit singingriverhealthsystem.com.