Breast Cancer Claims Formerly Ice Bound South Pole Doctor Jerri Fitzgerald

Jerri Nielsen Fitzgerald, M.D. has lost her battle with breast cancer. Dr. Fitzgerald captured the world’s attention in the spring of 1999 when, as the only physician at the Amundsen-Scott South Station in Antarctica, she was forced to diagnose and treat her own breast cancer. While serving the 41 men and women of the South Station, Dr Fitzgerald felt a lump in her breast. Because of the severe weather conditions Nielsen could not be evacuatedfor eight months, so she and others used e-mail instructions, makeshiftequipment and supplies received by an airdrop to treat the disease. She was able toperform an initial biopsy on herself, assisted by a welder she trained in surgery. She documented her story in the best selling biography: “Ice Bound: A Doctor’s Incredible Battle for Survival at the South Pole.” After multiple surgeries in the U.S., including a mastectomy, her cancer went into remission until 2005, when she suffered a recurrence.

Common symptoms of breast cancer include:

  • A change in how the breast or nipple feels
    • A lump or thickening in or near the breast or in the underarm area
    • Nipple tenderness
  • A change in how the breast or nipple looks
    • A change in the size or shape of the breast
    • A nipple turned inward into the breast
    • The skin of the breast, areola, or nipple may be scaly, red, or swollen. It may have ridges or pitting so that it looks like the skin of an orange.
  • Nipple discharge– fluid (clear, cloudy or bloody) coming from the nipple.

Early breast cancer usually does not cause pain. Still, a woman should see her health care provider about breast pain or any other symptom that does not go away. Most often, these symptoms are not due to cancer. Other health problems may also cause them. Any woman with these symptoms should tell her doctor so that problems can be diagnosed and treated as early as possible.

Information Specialists at 1-800-4-CANCER or LiveHelp.

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Mark Boguski, M.D., Ph.D. is on the faculty of Harvard Medical School and is a member of the Society for Participatory Medicine, "a movement in which networked patients shift from being mere passengers to responsible drivers of their health" and in which professional health care providers encourage "empowered patients" and value them as full partners in managing their health and wellness.

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