New Jersey Woman and her Diagnostic Radiologist Persevere to Beat Breast Cancer   

New Jersey Woman and her Diagnostic Radiologist Persevere to Beat Breast Cancer

Christina Deluca underwent mammograms, ultrasounds, MRIs and biopsies to finally uncover very early-stage breast cancer.

For good reason, Christina Deluca, 37, of Aberdeen, NJ, was vigilant about staying on top of her breast health, starting with annual mammograms at age 30. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force’s latest draft recommendation suggests all women get screened for breast cancer every other year, starting at age 40, to reduce their risk of dying from the disease. But Christina wanted to do more.

A wife and mother of two young boys, Christina knew that because of her family history and her dense breasts, she had to be more proactive than other women.

Her mother initially had a form of breast cancer called ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), found in the cells of milk ducts in the breast. She underwent a single mastectomy, but 20 years later, cancer in her other breast required a second mastectomy and radiation.

Christina and her mom sought genetic counseling at different times in their lives. They both tested BRCA negative — BRCA means BReast CAncer gene—and neither carried it. Christina was relieved but didn’t stop there.

Breast Diagnostics Yield a Troubling Result

Christina’s complex journey ultimately required endless patience, resilience, and optimism. It began with a regularly scheduled mammogram and breast ultrasound in April 2022 with Denis G. D’Angelo, M.D., a breast imaging and diagnostic radiologist at Bayshore Medical Center and Riverview Medical Center.

Results of both were also negative, but she returned for a breast MRI in June that year—she typically did MRIs every 1.5 years. “It’s the most sensitive test we have for the detection of breast cancer,” Dr. D’Angelo says. “We can see more of the breast tissue all the way to the chest wall on an MRI, which is not possible with a mammogram.”

Dr. D’Angelo found a pattern of multiple foci, small lesions or dots of enhancement that “light up” in the imaging, that he hadn’t observed before. So instead of waiting her usual year-and-a-half, Christina returned for a repeat MRI on Jan. 2, 2023, when Dr. D’Angelo found that things had changed.

The breast MRI revealed linear enhancement on the right side, which is a straight-line pattern that can indicate an abnormality. Dr. D’Angelo also reported two new masses in her left breast.

Ductal Hyperplasia Prompts a Big Decision

Next, on Jan. 20, an ultrasound-guided needle biopsy, which removes a small portion of the tumor, showed the two new masses in the left breast were fibroadenomas, benign or non-cancerous breast tumors that are solid lumps without fluid in them.

The diagnostic pyramid didn’t stop building there; Christina then underwent an MRI-guided biopsy in early February to learn more about the linear enhancement in the right breast. That revealed an atypical ductal hyperplasia, a “precursor” bordering on early breast cancer, Dr. D’Angelo says.

Christina followed up in mid-March with a breast surgeon to undergo an excisional biopsy, which means removal of the entire troublesome area. On further inspection, it was confirmed that she had the earliest stage of cancer, ductal carcinoma in situ, or DCIS, a stage 0 cancer, an abnormal group of cells in one part of the body.

Still patient and optimistic after such an exhaustive, comprehensive diagnostic path, Christina chose a double mastectomy in May 2023 and then reconstructive surgery in September.

Importance of Diligent Testing

Christina is grateful her diagnosis was made earlier rather than later. “I thank Dr. D’Angelo so much for helping me stick to a diagnostic schedule and for being so diligent,” she says. “I didn’t have to do a double mastectomy. I chose to do that, and so I was also able to avoid chemotherapy and radiation.”

She thought it was no coincidence that she and her mother had the same cancer at the same age. “Even though we were both negative for the BRCA gene, I didn’t believe I wouldn’t have to go through the same thing she did,” says Christina. “I thought, ‘If I’m doing this, I’m taking them both.’”

Christina has become an enthusiastic advocate for early screening and detection, and she and her mother do the American Cancer Society’s “Making Strides of Point Pleasant Beach” walk every year.

Most of all, she thinks about what taking preventive steps means for her family. “I want to be with my boys for the long run as their healthy, forward-looking mom.”

Next Steps & Resources

The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.


Subscribe to get the latest health tips from our expert clinicians delivered weekly to your inbox.

We use cookies to improve your experience. Please read our Privacy Policy or click Accept.