Ultrasound clinic owner advocates for preventative care after surviving breast cancer
By Lindsey Nolen
After Northeastern Hospital closed in 2009, Mt. Laurel, New Jersey, residents Stephanie Mazzagatti and her husband, Shawn Stanley, opened a family-owned ultrasound clinic down the street in March 2011, which they named Ultrasound Imaging.
It was then, thanks to their clinic and Stanley’s testing of a new probe device on his wife, that Mazzagatti discovered she had breast cancer.
The couple bought the property at 2351 E. Allegheny Avenue, obtained a business license and the necessary equipment and set up their office space.
Since the state does not require ultrasound technicians to have any type of certification, seeing as they do not perform MRIs or use nuclear medicine, the process to opening Ultrasound Imaging’s doors in Port Richmond was a fairly easy process.
“We started off pretty slow, being open two days a week and slowly progressing to being open four days a week until 2017. This is when Temple Hospital started suggesting that patients have to go to hospitals and cannot go to imaging centers, which isn’t true,” Mazzagatti said. “However, patients are able to go wherever their insurance is taken.”
Accepting Medicaid, Independence Blue Cross and Medicare, Mazzagatti said today her business sees 350 to 400 patients a month and performs a variety of pelvic, obstetrics and gynecology, abdominal, scrotal and breast ultrasounds.
Because Ultrasound Imaging is about helping the community and not solely about profits, a patient who is uninsured will never have to pay more than $140 for an ultrasound, Mazzagatti added.
“I recognize that if someone doesn’t have insurance, there’s probably a reason and they shouldn’t have to pay the $500 to $1,000 at a hospital for the same thing we can provide here,” she said.
In 2013, Stanley and Mazzagatti purchased a GE Volusia S6 machine with a GE 12 probe to serve patients regardless of their financial status.
In testing the new devices, Stanley completed a trial ultrasound on his wife and noticed two one-inch lumps in her right breast.
“I didn’t grow up with my biological mother, and no one on my father’s side had ever had cancer, so I never made it a priority to get my baseline mammogram,” Mazzagatti said. “I could tell by my husband’s reaction when he used the new probe that something wasn’t right.”
Mazzagatti immediately made an appointment for a mammogram at Fox Chase Cancer Center, and, although nothing was found in the mammogram, the doctors decided to take a biopsy based on the ultrasound reading.
“I knew from working in the field that it wasn’t good news, because normally the results come back in five to seven days, but I received mine on the eighth day,” said Mazzagatti, who was 44 years old at the time. “They came back showing that I had stage one breast cancer, and ultimately I had both breasts and some lymph nodes removed, but no chemotherapy.”
Although her mastectomy surgery was 14 hours long, and was accompanied by numerous complications and a blood transfusion — which used blood donated by her eight children — Mazzagatti still views herself as much more fortunate than others.
“I’m blessed for the way it all happened and that it happened when it did,” she said. “It was so crazy. It just never occurred to me that my mother’s side might have breast cancer, but during the time this all happened, I was actually able to find and contact my middle brother who confirmed that our mother did have breast cancer.”
Mazzagatti, who has been cancer-free since April 14, 2014, believes the experience has made her a much more optimistic person. The now 47-year-old added she also has a greater appreciation for the little things in life and is more aware of the other people around her due to her battle with breast cancer.
Furthermore, she focuses on making sure her eight children — Shawn, Danielle, Colin, Drew, Bryant, Reese, Shane and Gabrielle — take all the necessary preventative care in their own lives.
In stressing the importance of preventative medicine, she is making sure her oldest daughter, Danielle, gets a baseline mammogram at age 25.
“This was just part of the blessing that I now know what advice to give my children on prevention methods,” Mazzagatti said. “Another blessing is that because of my experience, my son, Bryant, now wants to become a plastic reconstructive surgeon.”
Mazzagatti would stress to all women that getting a baseline and annual mammogram are crucial. Yet, she also wishes to stress that, in many cases, an ultrasound can find what a mammogram can’t, and vice versa, so it’s important to get both.
“Sometimes doctors just order mammograms, and prior to my experience, that would have been my advice to myself. The truth of the matter is, now I’d say everyone should get both because you don’t want to miss anything.”