Busy Professional Gets Lifesaving Care at Scripps Center for Executive Health

Thorough annual exam helps patient catch breast cancer early

Vanezza Valdez, Executive Health

Thorough annual exam helps patient catch breast cancer early

Vanezza Valdez always believed her annual WholePerson™ Examination at Scripps Center for Executive Health helped her stay healthy. But in 2015, it may have saved her life.

For years, Vanezza suspected she might have breast cancer. Way back in 2006, she felt a nagging pain in her right breast. She mentioned it to her local gynecologist, who ordered a mammogram that came back negative. The doctor said she simply had fibrocystic breasts, which meant she had fibrous breast tissue, and not to worry about it.

Still, the pain persisted. Over the next several years, Vanezza had more negative mammograms. In 2014, she also had an ultrasound which showed nothing unusual. Yet she knew in her heart that something was wrong.

“I thought I was going crazy,” says Vanezza, who is in her 40s. “I could even feel a lump, but nobody sent me for any other tests. The doctors said everything was fine, so I decided to just let it go and focus on living my life.”

WholePerson Exam finds what others missed

In 2015, the El Centro resident made the trip to La Jolla for her WholePerson Examination at Scripps. As an engineer with the Imperial Irrigation District, Vanezza, her husband and their two teenagers receive a yearly WholePerson Examination as part of her employee benefits. The comprehensive, state-of-the-art medical exam, offered exclusively at Scripps Center for Executive Health, is designed especially for working professionals who have limited time for medical check-ups.

Starting first thing in the morning, the Scripps WholePerson Examination includes a multidisciplinary array of clinical and lifestyle evaluations by a select team of Scripps physicians. Along with testing for cancer, cardiovascular disease and other adult-onset conditions, specialists in clinical psychology, exercise physiology, mind/body therapies and nutrition evaluate the impact of lifestyle choices on each patient’s overall wellness and disease risk.

David LaVine, MD, an internal medicine specialist at Scripps Clinic, was Vanezza’s lead physician for the exam. Immediately, she felt comfortable talking with him about her fears, even though she had been told by others that she was fine.

“I had so much confidence in him that I asked him to check my breast and feel the area I was concerned about,” she says. “I think he knew right away I had a problem. He was very calm and told me he was going to make an appointment for me for more testing.”

The right diagnosis makes the difference

An MRI exam and biopsy finally confirmed Vanezza’s suspicions — she did, indeed, have breast cancer. Dr. La Vine notes that it’s unlikely the cancer goes back to her initial 2006 nagging pain. Nevertheless it was very fortunate that the cancer was caught early, before spreading. Vanezza’s oncologist gave her a choice of treatment options: lumpectomy or mastectomy. Even though her left breast was healthy, she opted for a double mastectomy, followed by radiation.

“After so many years of struggling with this and people telling me there was nothing wrong when I knew there was, I didn’t ever want to think about breast cancer again,” she says.

Vanezza says she owes Dr. La Vine her life. “I don’t know where I would be today without him,” she says. “The Center for Executive Health even coordinated all of my appointments. They follow through on every little thing and make sure you get the attention you need.”

Vanezza recommends the annual WholePerson Examination to anyone who wants a comprehensive, head-to-toe medical check-up, especially if they are pressed for time. Even if her employer didn’t provide the exam as a benefit, Vanezza says she would pay for it herself.

“We love it,” she says. “You get everything done and you get your questions answered in one visit, once a year.”

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