Meet Andrea

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Andrea Wile is a PCH Registered Nurse, the Nurse Manager in the Maternal Child Care Unit, a small business owner in Summerside with her husband Kevin, and a member of the PCH Foundation Board of Directors. When Andrea was a teenager she lost her mother to breast cancer. Though her mother’s cancer was thought to be found early, advancements in mammography have meant that Andrea’s cancer was found even earlier…when she was 35. Andrea recounts “As scary as it is to get results and as scary as it is to get diagnosed, I’d rather know than not know. The options in front of me were positive because of early detection.”
Andrea’s mother did everything that was recommended to her in the early 90s, but died from cancer seven years later. “I was blessed,” said Andrea, “because although I couldn’t ask her, my mom was a nurse and kept diaries of her health. I was lucky to be able to read it.” The path her mother walked in those diaries helped to colour Andrea’s own decisions when she was met with her diagnosis. After the mother of two found a lump in February 2018, she consulted, Dr. Heather Austin, her family physician. Dr. Austin was not concerned by the lump but said, “Let’s be certain,” and she sent Andrea for a mammogram and an ultrasound. A prudent decision given Andrea’s family history. Though the lump was not cancerous, the mammogram picked up something else. A second mammogram was performed to further investigate, but it still remained unclear as to what was showing up. A needle biopsy did not provide a clear picture, so a full surgical biopsy was performed by Dr. Bannon at PCH in March. During the biopsy they accidentally cut through the tumour as it wasn’t visible to the eye; so, they couldn’t be sure they got it all. So, a second surgery was scheduled for May. Things were moving quickly because Andrea was considered high risk as her family was known to be genetically positive for BRCA2 (see text box). Andrea would later be diagnosed positive, as well, meaning she, her daughter and her son are predisposed to cancers of the breast, ovaries, skin, pancreas and prostate.
In the second surgical biopsy Dr. Bannon removed three cancerous tumours, not the single tumour they expected. Two of the three were rated a 3/3 for danger. The recommendation at this point was twenty-six rounds of radiation. The same path her mother had walked. Early detection, lumpectomy, and radiation. It hadn’t worked for her mother and Andrea wasn’t confident that it was the correct path for her. “I’m not repeating the same story,” she expressed at the time. After a great deal of personal research and thoughtful consultation with Drs. Bannon and Austin, Andrea decided that a full mastectomy was a more certain road for her; a road that would greatly diminish her chances of reoccurrence in the future. Her surgery was performed that July. Andrea later had a hysterectomy to further improve her chances of remaining cancer free.
Andrea hopes her story will end differently because of early detection through mammography. “I often tell people that it’s better to know and get it removed because you have so many more options in front of you. Because of early detection and the choices we made about treatment options, I didn’t have to do radiation or chemotherapy. Those have significant life implications. It was a significant health savings.”
The current mammography machine at PCH was installed in 2009 after a huge fundraising campaign that was satisfied through our caring communities. It was the first digital unit on PEI and it helped to save Andrea’s life. She said of this life-saving equipment, “Having the technology available in the community is huge because it provides the opportunity for early detection and actually being able to do something about it. With nearly 25 years of medical advancement, we’ve come a long way from my mother’s story to the story I hope to have.”
This year the PCH Foundation is reaching out to the community to help replace the Digital Mammography Unit at the Prince County Hospital. After twelve years of continuous service, the unit is reaching the end of its life and will be replaced with even more advanced technology. You can help give a new path to women like Andrea and women just like her throughout your community and across PEI. Click here to make your gift today