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Conquering Breast Cancer

First published in the Oct. 29 print issue of the Glendale News-Press.


One year after what she thought was her final breast cancer surgery, Devon Steigerwald adopted a shelter dog. She hadn’t planned on coming home with a dog — she was actually there for her mom — but he wouldn’t leave her side.
“This dog was just pawing and pawing right at my sternum,” the 41-year-old sports photographer said. “It got to the point where he would pounce on it. I did a breast self-exam and discovered what felt like a ballpoint pen tip.”
Her cancer was back, and her dog, Asa, found it.
About 1 in 8 American women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime, and that risk increases with age. But for women like Steigerwald, breast cancer can come at a young age without any family history or obvious risk factors.
The Venice resident was first diagnosed with breast cancer in March 2020 after a worrying routine self-exam. She has always stayed on top of them, thanks to her philanthropic work with Boarding for Breast Cancer, and it possibly saved her life. For this reason, Adventist Health Glendale providers recommend that women of all ages do a monthly breast self-exam at home.
The goal of a breast self-exam is to familiarize yourself with your breast tissue, so you know when something changes. Contact your doctor if you notice a hard lump, swelling, pain, thickening or dimples in the skin.
“Most breast specialists recommend annual mammography beginning at age 40,” Dr. Dennis Holmes said. “Women with a high risk of breast cancer should consider undergoing annual breast MRI in addition to mammography.”
He also recommends women with dense breasts have a screening ultrasound at the same time as their mammogram.
Steigerwald’s advice for women: “Don’t live in fear and don’t be afraid to get checked out.”
After all, a self-exam led her to the doctor in the first place. “I’m lucky to have these doctors, but I’m lucky enough to have been educated.”
Steigerwald said she found the breast cancer “dream team” in her oncologist and Dr. Holmes.
“Every time I’ve had surgery, the person next to me has flown in from around the world because they only want Dr. Holmes to treat them,” she said. “Dr. Holmes is as much an artist as he is a doctor.”
Since her first bout with breast cancer, Steigerwald has had five surgeries and continues her treatment. Today, though, she’s more than ready for her next trip — whether it’s jumping out of planes or scuba diving.
“I’ll probably find another adventure,” she said with a laugh. “I just want to be my normal self, which is usually most people’s craziest.”

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