A second opinion saved my breasts

Dianna Coffman with her husband David.

"For years, my life was a living nightmare," Diana Coffman says. After a diagnosis of fibrocystic breasts, her OB/GYN thought there was the possibility of cancer. To keep track of her numerous cysts, he prescribed an aggressive and painful treatment plan.

Every three months she had to go in for a mammogram. And each time she went, they recommended a biopsy. Diana describes her ordeal: "When I would leave the hospital after a biopsy, I felt like I got hit by a truck. I came home looking like a punching bag. And it seemed like by the time I healed up from one biopsy, it was time to go in and have another."

She endured the inconvenience and discomfort of frequent mammograms and the pain of the biopsies. At the same time, Diana was being worn down by constant mental anguish - the fear that one day the tests would show she had cancer. Finally, sick and exhausted by the whole process, she decided to get rid of the problem forever by having her breasts removed.

Without her family’s knowledge, she made an appointment with a surgeon. "After a physical examination and review of my tests, he told me I was absolutely a candidate to have both breasts removed," she says. "A reconstructive surgeon agreed with the plan and my insurance company approved it for payment." A double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery were scheduled for the next week.

"It was tough," she admits. "But I came home and told my family. They panicked and tried to talk me out of it, but I’d had enough. I just wanted the pain and fear to go away."

Fortunately, Diana’s husband wouldn’t give up. He knew she was desperate but convinced her to see a doctor he knew, Shahla Masood, MD, for a second opinion. Reluctantly, she agreed.

Several days before her surgery, Diana gathered up all of her test results and took them to Dr. Masood. After reviewing the records, Dr. Masood ordered a genetic test called the BRCA (breast cancer susceptibility gene) test to check for mutations which would show she was at high risk for cancer. The test came back negative, indicating that Diana was free of any cancer-causing genes.

"That’s when Dr. Masood said the words that changed my life," Diana exclaims. "She told me there was no reason to take my breasts off. She just didn’t see a reason." In addition to cancelling the mastectomy, Dr. Masood prescribed a much less radical treatment plan consisting of annual mammograms. "What a relief," Diana says. "No surgery, no more biopsies. I couldn’t believe it."

Dr. Masood says, "Sometimes the patient gets paralyzed with the fear of cancer. They want the breast off." She goes on to say that, in Diana’s case, there was no scientifically sound reason for such a drastic approach. "Removal of a breast should be the last option."

Diana is now under the care of Dr. Masood and a new OB/GYN. No more abnormalities have been found in her breasts and she has had no further biopsies.

"Thank goodness my husband convinced me to get a second opinion," Diana says. "Dr. Masood’s diagnosis saved my breasts and took away all the pain and anxiety. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think of her and thank her for giving me my life back."

Dr. Masood believes that, when faced with breast disease or cancer, the first and most important decision you can make is to get a second opinion. She is a passionate advocate for second opinions and has dedicated her life to breast health education and breast cancer research. An internationally recognized expert in the fields of cancer diagnosis and prognosis, breast health and pathology, Dr. Masood is the doctor physicians and patients from all over the world rely on for accurate, reliable cancer diagnoses and treatment options.

Put the power of a second opinion to work for you. Call 904.244.4387 today to schedule your personal consultation with Dr. Masood.

Dr.Shahla Masood is Professor and Chair of the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at the University of Florida College of Medicine – Jacksonville. She also serves as Medical Director of the UF Health Breast Center and as Chief of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at UF Health Jacksonville.

Featured Faculty

Shahla Masood, MD

Shahla Masood, MD

Chair, Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine; Program Director, Breast Pathology Fellowship; Medical Director, Breast Health Center; Program Director, Cytopathology Fellowship; Director of Research; Interim Director of Cancer Programs