Early detection helps local woman survive breast cancer

Breast Cancer Awareness Month isn't the only time to be diligent about breast screenings. Mammograms are the best way to find breast cancer early when it is easier to treat and before it is big enough to feel or cause symptoms.

posted on 11/1/2019 in Features

Dianna Petersen, a lifelong resident of Gray, had been having a difficult year. On Easter Dianna PetersenSunday, 2017, she and her husband Larry were traveling home from a family gathering when they lost their brakes and plunged over an embankment near Atlantic, Iowa. The crash resulted in their car flipping and leaving Dianna with multiple serious injuries.

“I don’t remember going over the bank,” Petersen said. “When I woke up, I wondered why my arm was in such an odd position.”

Fortunately, her husband, Larry, only had minor injuries but Dianna was life flighted to UNMC in Omaha. There, she underwent surgeries on both hands, her arm, elbow and leg. She suffered several broken ribs, a broken sternum and a brain bleed.

“I was able to come home after six weeks in the hospital but spent the rest of the summer in a wheelchair,” Petersen said.

She was finally able to return to work in October and not long after, she discovered a lump in her breast.

“I convinced myself it was only scar tissue from the accident because it was right where the seat belt would have been,” she said. “But it kept gnawing at me, so I finally went to my doctor and had a mammogram.”

The mammogram led to an ultrasound which led to a biopsy. The biopsy came back as cancer and her doctor recommended a lumpectomy which she had in January 2018.

Her doctor prescribed radiation therapy following the procedure, but Petersen knew she didn’t want to drive to Council Bluffs every day for the treatment. She decided to have radiation at St. Anthony Regional Hospital in Carroll.

“From the first time I went there, they were wonderful. They explained things and they were so concerned and so friendly,” Petersen said. “It was great to have St. Anthony close by. I just can’t say enough about everyone on their staff.”

Petersen has recommended St. Anthony to friends who needed radiation treatment. “Based on my experience, I told them it was a no brainer.”

Peterson’s last radiation treatment was in March, 2018, nearly a full year after the accident. Today she is cancer free.

“It was quite a year, but I consider myself blessed it was not worse than it was,” Petersen said.

Petersen found her lump during a self-exam and even though she put off getting it checked for a while, she credits that early detection for her positive outcome. She also encourages others to get regular mammograms, especially as they get older.

“It doesn’t take very long and if you can catch something like that early enough, you obviously have a better chance.”


  1. breast biopsy
  2. breast cancer
  3. breast cancer awareness
  4. cancer
  5. radiation oncology
  6. radiation therapy

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