Tina Saiia, Stage 2A Breast Cancer

Comprehensive Cancer Centers is committed to offering groundbreaking research to its patients. In this Research Spotlight, learn how research at Comprehensive is giving Tina the best chance of no recurrence or metastasis.

In January 2021, Tina Saiia had just returned home from her first day back at work after suffering a bout with COVID-19 when she felt a painful discomfort on her left side.

Originally, she believed it was nothing more than some soreness from all the coughing she had been doing, but when she put her hand over the area, expecting to hit a sore muscle, that’s when she felt it: a tumor.

Her worst fear was confirmed when she received a diagnostic mammogram and ultrasound, which led to a biopsy in March. In April, she received a call from her obstetrician-gynecologist, Dr. Lisa Roberts, who gave her the news and immediately referred her to the doctors at Comprehensive Cancer Centers (Comprehensive).

After her aunt was diagnosed with breast cancer at 49 years-old, Tina never expected to be next, but she started receiving annual mammograms when she was 35 years old as a precaution. She hasn’t missed an appointment in 20 years.

In May 2020, she had a telemedicine visit and was told everything looked great, but when she found the lump less than a year later, she knew it wasn’t something to brush off.

“You have to pay attention to your body and don’t wait,” she said. Her persistence with early detection may have been lifesaving.

Tina was diagnosed with Stage 2A Triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC), which is a form of cancer that accounts for about 10-15% of all breast cancers. It differs from other types because treatment options are limited due to rapid growth and faster spreading.

There was no time to waste. Tina was seen by Dr. Margaret A. Terhar, a breast surgeon at Comprehensive, who referred her to Dr. Karen Jacks, a medical oncologist also at Comprehensive.

They went over her diagnosis and discussed Dr. Jacks’ recommendations, which included a clinical trial. Tina immediately felt comfortable due to Dr. Jacks’ genuine nature, but her immediate question was if the trial would change the initial recommended treatment. She was assured that, if she did receive the drug from the trial, it would only be an added benefit in addition to standard of care.

Tina started chemotherapy in May and was enrolled in the TRIO NSABP B-59 trial – a randomized, double-blind, Phase III clinical trial that has since received FDA approval.

In June, after Tina’s second cycle of chemotherapy, Dr. Jacks was ecstatic to give her the news that the tumor appeared to be shrinking. In July, Dr. Terhar confirmed through an ultrasound that there were no remnants of the tumor remaining.

Tina recently finished chemotherapy at the end of September and is now scheduled to receive a double mastectomy in October. This decision was not made lightly, but due to Tina’s TNBC diagnosis being more aggressive and harder to treat, this was the course of action that gave her the best chance of no recurrence or metastasis.

“It’s been a whirlwind, but I’m super happy that I was referred to Dr. Jacks and the awesome doctors at Comprehensive. They are amazing people and amazing caregivers,” Tina said. “It’s a hard situation to be in, but if you can make it any better by not having to worry about anything, they certainly have. I’m very grateful for that.”