Three cancers in five years: Carol's story

Doctor holding young woman's hand across a table

Continuing her surveillance at Roswell Park's Jamestown location assured her expert care closer to home.

Carol Keller is a survivor. In 2010, she experienced a sudden pulmonary embolism, the obstruction of a blood vessel in the lungs caused by blood clots. Her children quickly transferred her from her home in Ischua, NY, to Erie County Medical Center in Buffalo. While in a coma, she was not aware of what was happening but when she awoke, she had good news and not good news. Her lung clots had been successfully dissolved, but during her tests and examinations, doctors had discovered she had endometrial cancer.

“It was a life-threatening experience,” recalls Carol, 79, a lifelong resident of Cattaraugus County, NY. “I didn't realize that blood clots could be an indication of cancer. Once I had recovered from the embolism, I was referred to Roswell Park, where I was treated and had a full hysterectomy.” While Carol’s recovery was successful, she wasn’t done with cancer treatments.

In the next five years, she would be diagnosed with breast and thyroid cancer. “In addition to my hysterectomy, I had a small tumor on my right breast removed, followed by radiation therapy. Almost three years after that I had my thyroid removed, again followed by extensive radiation. The good news, thank goodness, is that I’ve now been cancer-free for 14 years.”

Trusted surveillance without the long drive

Jamestown Medical Oncology and Hematology Building
Roswell Park's Jamestown location offers an on-site chemotherapy infusion center, convenient for our patients in Chautauqua County.

When Roswell Park’s Care Network location in Jamestown, NY contacted her for follow up visits, Carol was relieved. “It takes an hour to drive from my home to the office in Jamestown compared to just under two hours of travel each way to reach Roswell Park in Buffalo, so it was very helpful to be closer, especially as I was following up with doctor visits every three months at the time. The Jamestown office was very welcoming and has a nice cozy atmosphere. I’ve been able to continue seeing Dr. Peter Frederick who performed my hysterectomy in Buffalo, so that’s been reassuring as well.”

In addition to surveillance care, Roswell Park’s Jamestown location offers a full range of services and treatments for gynecological cancers. The practice also offers testing for the BRCA gene, to detect mutations in DNA that increase the risk of certain cancers including breast cancer and ovarian cancer, as well as preventative and evaluation services.

“Recently I saw a patient who's been in remission from ovarian cancer for two years and, based on her BRCA test, I now see her daughter for annual preventive screening as genetics often play a significant role in raising risks,” says gynecologic oncologist Peter Frederick, MD, FACOG, who sees patients at Roswell Park Comprehensive Center’s main campus in Buffalo as well at the Jamestown practice.

Partnering with other local healthcare providers offers patients in the Jamestown area additional support and services closer to home. “Patients may require radiation that includes daily treatments for five or six weeks,” says Dr. Frederick. “We partner with local radiation oncologists which is helpful for our patients as they can reduce travel and avoid the expense of hotel stays.”

Catching cancer early is always the goal and warning signs should never be ignored, says Dr. Fredrick. “We see a lot of women who ignore bleeding for months. If a woman's gone through menopause and has bleeding, even a light amount, we want to check for uterine cancer as soon as possible.” Ovarian cancer symptoms tend to be nonspecific and include abdominal bloating, pelvic discomfort, changes in bowel movements or urination, unintentional weight loss, nausea and vomiting. Cervical cancer is often asymptomatic until it's more advanced, making regular Pap tests, screenings that detect potentially precancerous and cancerous cell changes in the cervix important in catching cancer at early stages.

Cancer care closer to you

You can access Roswell Park quality cancer care through our network of community cancer and specialized care providers, all throughout New York State.

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Promoting cancer prevention

Although patients at the Jamestown location are typically adults, parents of young children are encouraged to talk to their pediatricians about vaccinating their children against human papillomavirus (HPV). The vaccine has been proven effective at reducing HPV-related conditions including cervical cancer and precancerous conditions like dysplasia. “If HPV can be prevented in the younger age groups, they’re less likely to need us when they're older,” says Dr. Frederick.

“In Western medicine, we tend to treat disease after it’s already happened, but we know an emphasis on prevention is so important. Regular check-ups, maintaining healthy lifestyles with healthy diet, exercise, good sleep, and avoiding cigarettes, can reduce the risk of cancer from happening in the first place. If patients can build a focus on general wellness in their lives, diseases like cancer won't be eliminated, but the incidence will definitely be reduced.”

Carol now, a three-time cancer survivor, remains grateful. “I’ll have been cancer-free for 14 years. I have four adult children who continue to be persistent about my healthcare and I feel fortunate to have seven grandchildren and two great-granddaughters. I've got a very good life and feel that I’ve been given a second chance.”

Editor’s Note: Cancer patient outcomes and experiences may vary, even for those with the same type of cancer. An individual patient’s story should not be used as a prediction of how another patient will respond to treatment. Roswell Park is transparent about the survival rates of our patients as compared to national standards, and provides this information, when available, within the cancer type sections of this website.