Great Bend Woman Survives Breast Cancer Thanks to Early Detection


Rachel Duryee has no family history of breast cancer and stresses early detection.

Early detection of a tumor may have saved Rachel Duryee’s life. Duryee, who turned 35 a few weeks earlier, thought the little bump may have been inflammation or a blocked milk duct because she was still nursing her daughter when she noticed it. She was mistaken. In December 2019, about 3 weeks after Duryee first noticed the bump, she learned it was a fast-growing type of breast cancer. “I admit, I was reluctant to see the doctor,” Duryee says. “A couple weeks went by, but Dustin, my husband, kept saying he had a bad feeling about this. He strongly urged me to check into it. Thank goodness he did.” Duryee saw Elise Snapp, APRN, at The University of Kansas Health System Great Bend Family Medicine. Snapp recommended Duryee get a mammogram quickly. Duryee followed up with a mammogram at Great Bend Campus imaging services, where she works as a radiology technologist. The technologist who performed Duryee’s mammogram “thought something didn’t look right,” Duryee says. “The radiologist was there that day, and my biopsy was done immediately,” she says. “They found a cluster and sure enough . . .” The bump went from being small “to something I could wrap my hand around within several weeks,” Duryee says. “I ended up with multiple tumors and 1 really big one. It easily could have spread.” Duryee credits Heather Ewy, who performed the mammogram, for knowing that the radiologist should be contacted right away. “Heather’s skill level told her something should be done soon,” Duryee says. “She is so professional and compassionate and good at what she does.” Duryee’s treatment started with 6 chemotherapy treatments beginning in January 2020 and ending 4 months later. Then came a bilateral mastectomy, 35 radiation treatments over 3 months and the administration of an IV drug for a year. Duryee has no family history of breast cancer and does not have the BRCA gene mutation, which can increase the risk of breast cancer. She stresses that early detection is vital. “The best way to beat breast cancer is to find it early,” says Shannon Deines, imaging services manager. “The best way to find it early is with an annual mammogram.” Women should schedule their first mammogram at age 40. If someone has a family history of breast cancer, healthcare providers may suggest starting earlier. New technology offering mammograms with 3D capability has been available in Great Bend since March 2021, says Deines. “This is state-of-the-art technology,” Deines says. “A 2D mammogram provides just 2 pictures, while 3D captures a series of pictures from multiple angles. This 3-dimensional image allows the radiologist to see smaller areas of the breast.” An additional advantage of 3D mammography is that it decreases false positive results. Mammograms using 3D technology normally take only 10-15 minutes to complete. Women who don’t have health insurance don’t have to forgo annual mammograms. The University of Kansas Health System in Great Bend offers breast cancer screenings for women age 40-64 through Early Detection Works, a program provided by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. In April, EDW began covering the cost of 3D mammograms. To schedule an appointment for a mammogram, call 620-791-6299. Appointments are available 8 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Monday and 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday-Friday.