Survivor Says Breakthrough Breast Cancer Test Saved Life

Lucia Henao, 62, Says Ductoscopy Procedure Detected Breast Cancer Early

A breast cancer survivor says her life was saved by a procedure that can detect what traditional breast cancer tests could miss.

62-year-old Lucia Henao has a family history of cancer. She is on schedule with her yearly mammograms and regular monthly breast self exams but grew increasingly concerned when she noticed an abnormality.

"I had a mammogram [and] it was clean," said Henao. "About two weeks later, I started to leak."

Henao was leaking blood through her nipples in very small amounts.

Dr. Julie Barone from Oncology Associates said, "The most common cause of bloody nipple discharge is papilloma. They are benign breast growths but they are very, very small and sometimes they don't show up on an ultrasound or a mammogram."

Dr. Barone recommended that Henao undergo a procedure called a ductoscopy, which is a diagnostic and therapeutic procedure that looks at the ducts inside a breast and can spot malignant growths at microscopic levels.

When asked if she had ever heard of ductoscopy before, Henao responded, "Never. It was my first knowledge of that... I had no idea what it was."

According to Barone, the ductoscopy involves a .7 millimeter to .9 millimeter camera that is inserted into the duct that has the discharge. By using the tiny scope, the image that is seen on the monitor is magnified sixty times, so the doctor is able to see the abnormality or papilloma close up.

During a recent surgery involving another patient of Barone's, Barone detected a blockage inside the walls of the duct.

"Normally, the walls are very smooth and white... [When] we see very irregular walls and some blood... that's not normal," said Barone.

By using the ductoscope, Barone can then remove some of the diseased tissue for further testing and in some cases, like Henao's, find cancer.

Barone has performed about 50 ductoscopy procedures in the past two years. She said about 6 percent of the cases have ended up being cancer which is why she believes the test should be performed more often.

"Don't ignore it," said Barone. "Early detection is the key to the success on cancer [and] breast cancer treatment. This is an early detection tool that we can use."

Henao said, "These little cells were microscopic... the mammogram couldn't find it [and] the ultrasound couldn't find it -- nothing."

But the ductoscopy did, and after six weeks of radiation, Henao said she is cancer free.

"If they hadn't discovered that at that stage, probably now I would be like stage three or four," she said. "That saved my life."