UF Health Jacksonville offers fast answers to mother-daughter duo through same-day breast cancer assessment
Ashley Durand characterizes herself as an art-lover and adventure-seeker. In the summer of 2018, she took a road trip and explored several national parks on the West Coast.
A vibrant 23-year-old woman, it is impossible to tell that Ashley underwent a breast cancer scare only one year ago.
Ashley’s mother, Ellen Durand, supervisor of inpatient financial services at UF Health Jacksonville, is a breast cancer survivor. When Ashley was 6 years old, Ellen was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer. Stage 3 means the cancer has extended, or metastasized, beyond the immediate region of the tumor and may have invaded nearby lymph nodes and muscles.
“At age 37, I went through the fight of my life having metastatic breast cancer,” Ellen said. “I went through a double mastectomy, dozens of rounds of radiation, multiple operations and clinical trials with the hope of beating cancer.”
During treatment, Ellen underwent genetic testing and learned she carried a BRCA2 gene mutation. According to the National Institutes of Health, mutations to the BRCA2 gene are associated with an increased risk of breast cancer in men and women.
The mutations can be passed down through generations; however, not all who inherit them will develop cancer.
Genetic testing as a young adult confirmed Ashley was a carrier of the BRCA2 gene mutation. As a result, she was vigilant about monthly breast self-exams. When she noticed a suspicious lump, she knew she needed to act quickly.
“Finding my lump was probably how you would imagine finding one — initial panic, a lot of crying in the shower and a lot of thinking the worst,” Ashley said. “After watching my mom go through her cancer experience, I dreaded the thought of being sent from clinic to clinic, slowly awaiting test results.”
For Ellen, the possibility of her only daughter being diagnosed with breast cancer at age 22 was devastating. She remembered waiting seven agonizing weeks for her own diagnosis, enduring delays with scheduling and referrals to see all of the required specialists.
“I can honestly say waiting for the results in between tests brought me more anxiety and stress than the actual moment I was diagnosed with breast cancer,” Ellen said.
Not long after speaking to Ashley, Ellen saw a flyer at work about the same-day breast assessment service at UF Health. The service offers patients who suspect they may have cancer the opportunity to see all necessary specialists to make a diagnosis and develop a treatment plan, if necessary, within the same day.
Ellen notified her daughter, who was able to call and quickly make an appointment.
The appointment was more than Ashley and her family could have hoped for. The entire family was able to stay with her as she received care. Every specialist came to her patient room — no running around to multiple locations on the hospital campus was required.
“My experience at the breast center was very pleasant,” Ashley said. “The team treated me seriously, but also gently, and were attentive to my concerns and emotions.”
Each assessment includes a personalized meeting with a pathologist, a diagnostic radiologist and a surgeon. Led by Shahla Masood, MD, medical director of the UF Health Breast Center – Jacksonville and chair of pathology and laboratory medicine for the University of Florida College of Medicine – Jacksonville, the multidisciplinary approach to breast health allows for rapid clinical assessment, diagnostic imaging, fine needle aspiration and a treatment plan at the conclusion of the appointment.
“The appointment was an extremely positive experience for both my daughter and our family,” Ellen said. “Dr. Masood and her team at the breast center handled our needs with compassion and care.”
Fortunately for Ashley, her tumor was identified as a fibroadenoma, or a noncancerous breast tumor. No treatment was necessary. She was able to return to school and move forward with a follow-up plan in-hand. Her recommendations include breast health check-ups every six months and continued self-examination.
Ashley has since earned her master’s degree in biological science from Auburn University. She plans to become a veterinarian and will always remain a steadfast advocate for early breast cancer detection.
“I would really like more of the public to know this is a viable option,” Ashley said. “I would have endured unnecessary stress and anxiety wondering about my lump if it was not for the assessment.”
Same-day breast assessments are available at UF Health Jacksonville and UF Health North. For more information or to make an appointment, visit UFHealthJax.org/breast or call 904.244.4387.
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