Avera Medical Minute: Newly approved FDA drug promising for Gynecological, Breast Cancer

By  | 

If ever want a boost of encouragement, Lisa Hermandson is the person to talk to."There's always hope. Miracles do happen. I'm their miracle project. That's what he tells me and he's my hero," said Hermandson.

Lisa Hermandson survived gynecological and breast cancer

Lisa is talking about Avera Gynecologic Oncologist Luis Rojas, and the care he and the entire team provided when she was diagnosed with cancer in multiple parts of her body. First, it was the discovery of hundreds of tumors in her abdomen.

While reading Lisa's cat scan, Doctor Rojas found more. "The cat scan was of the abdomen and the pelvis, but it takes the lower part of the chest. While looking at the lower part of the chest, there was a lump visible in her right breast," said Doctor Rojas.

Chemo started to shrink the tumors. Surgery was next. "He removed all the tumors. He took my appendix, he gave me a complete hysterectomy and repaired a hernia. And at the same time, Dr. Merrigan removed the lump from my breast," said Hermandson.

The team of oncologists, pathologists, social workers, and other specialists developed a plan.

"We meet weekly to talk about this case so that the patient doesn't have to be going to see multiple people and there's good coordination in the care," said Doctor Rojas.

Lisa tested positive for the BRCA gene, indicating she is more susceptible to cancer. That may sound like bad news, but Doctor Rojas said there's a silver lining. "There are new medications, for BRCA mutated ovarian cancers that are making leaps and bounds in sense of survival for our patients." said Doctor Rojas.

One of them is a PARP inhibitor, which can be a game-changer.

"I have probably this past year, witnessed the biggest advance that I'm gonna see in ovarian cancer in my lifetime," said Doctor Rojas.

Studies are showing that patients who take the PARP inhibitors are at a much lower risk of re-occurrence. It needs to be taken daily for the rest of a patient's life.

With her labwork showing there are no immediate concerns of cancer, Lisa is adjusting to a new, slower pace of life.

"I have lots of grandkids that come and visit us and so we do things in the yard, I love to garden, plant flowers and I can that at my speed."

Being on the other side of this major hurdle has brought insight Lisa shares with you. " I don't wish my life away," said Hermandson. "Some people will be like, I can't wait until this, I can't wait until that. I don't do that. Every day is such a different day, every single day."