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A Breast Cancer Diagnosis Followed Finding a Small Lump, But This NJ Mom Is Fighting

Christina is surrounded by the support of her family and friends as she receives integrated care in both New Jersey and Center City and undergoes radiation treatment on the Linear Accelerator (LINAC) machine, a new state-of-the-art technology available.

Christina Lawrence was right on schedule to get her first screening mammogram in early 2020. She had found a small lump, but based on her age and the fact that there was no family history of the disease, the breast cancer diagnosis that followed a week or so later, after a biopsy, was an unexpected jolt for the married mother of two teenagers.

“It turned my world upside down,” Christina, a resident of West Deptford admits, adding that she immediately wanted to find the right care team to help guide her through her journey.

Through the recommendation of her stepfather, himself a cancer patient, Christina found that care team at Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center locations in southern New Jersey and Center City Philadelphia. National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated, the latter location is one of only two nationally ranked cancer centers in the region.

Christina’s treatment began in December 2020 at the Washington Township, NJ, Cancer Center location on its new, state-of-the-art Linear Accelerator (LINAC) machine. Since 2012, more than 2,000 patients have received LINAC treatments there; Christina is the first to receive treatment using its new Varian TrueBeam™ LINAC — a treatment modality that delivers high-energy radiation that can be targeted to an exact location of a tumor or lesion, sparing healthy tissue and minimizing side effects.

Christina Lawrence with Dr. LaCouture

Christina Lawrence (left) with Dr. Tamara LaCouture.

Christina, who works as a high school nurse and at an area hospital, initially underwent six months of chemotherapy treatment with medical oncologist Dr. Rebecca Jaslow at the Cancer Center’s nationally ranked, NCI-designated location in Center City Philadelphia.

More recently, Christina underwent a double mastectomy under the care of Jefferson Philadelphia-based surgeon Dr. Melissa Lazar. Christina was then referred to Dr. Tamara LaCouture in southern New Jersey for radiation oncology treatment. “I love Dr. LaCouture,” Christina adds. “From the moment we met, we clicked. We just have the same type of personality. It’s important to have someone I can trust.” Not only is the Washington Township location convenient for Christina, she says the team there has been “wonderful,” as she puts it, adding that they always warmly recognize her when she comes in for treatments despite being a new patient. While undergoing radiation treatment, Christina still sees Dr. Jaslow every three weeks to receive specialized antibody treatments aimed at preventing a reoccurrence of her breast cancer.

Having a big support system is key. I am fortunate to have my husband, children, parents, brothers, sister, and friends by my side.
—Christina Lawrence

“We are incredibly proud of the breast cancer care we provide across all Jefferson locations, and are grateful for the trust our patients grant us,” says Jefferson’s Enterprise Director of Breast Oncology, Dr. Kristin Brill. “Christina’s story is an example of truly excellent cancer treatment with access to expertise, clinical trials, and state-of-the-art technologies, and collaboration.”

Dr. LaCouture says the Cancer Center is extremely excited to add the new LINAC, complementing the other state-of-the-art technology available to offer patients the latest advances in the delivery of radiation treatment. She described Christina’s strength and positive attitude as an inspiration: “It is wonderful that we can offer her personalized care, right here in her community.”

Christina says the new LINAC is comfortable and not time-consuming for her treatments. She encourages women battling breast cancer to take things one day at a time and not be afraid to ask for help. “Having a big support system is key,” she stresses. “I am fortunate to have my husband, children, parents, brothers, sister, and friends by my side.”

Christina, who has another few weeks of radiation treatment ahead, says she’s feeling positive about her life: “I’ve had a few challenges, but I’m taking whatever God has planned for me.”

Additional reporting by Nicole Pensiero.

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