McLaren Proton Therapy Center Treats 1,000th Patient

Author: Leslie Toldo

In October of 2022, Tammy Jugovich felt something suspicious during a breast self-exam- a lump about the size of the tip of her pinky finger.  Within four months, that lump in her right breast was the length and width of her thumb.

“I could feel it growing.  When I first started noticing it, the lump was small and deep, I could feel it getting bigger and coming more to the surface. It was hard, sore, and warm to the touch.  It felt very scary and very wrong,” Tammy said.

Tammy didn’t hesitate. She immediately went to her gynecologist’s office, where it was suggested that she wait and get a mammogram in six months.

“I refused. I demanded to have a mammogram and an ultrasound either that day or the next,” Tammy said. “They got me in that afternoon.”

The next day, Tammy went in for a biopsy that revealed she had invasive ductal breast cancer.  It was a frightening diagnosis, but Tammy was so glad she did not wait to have a mammogram.

“I knew something was wrong and I was scared. I didn’t want to wait,” Tammy said. “You have to advocate for yourself. I really believe my days would have been shortened if I had not insisted on getting that appointment.”

After surgery to remove what turned out to be four tumors, Tammy had chemotherapy.  After that, her care team recommended radiation, so Tammy went to see Radiation Oncologist Dr. Christian Hyde at the Karmanos Cancer Institute at McLaren Lansing.

“I so appreciate that Dr. Hyde took the time to research my case and talk it over with his team. It made me feel safe about being under his care,” Tammy said. 

The cancer was in Tammy’s right breast, but it was also possibly in lymph nodes located close to her heart. So, instead of traditional radiation, using x-rays, Dr. Hyde recommended that Tammy be treated with proton therapy. 

“We tried to see if an X-ray plan would be able to adequately spare the heart from radiation damage, but it turned out that X-rays would not have been safe.”  Dr Hyde said.  “Because we can control where the protons stop in the body, we can better avoid damage to the heart and other vital organs than with traditional X-rays, which travel more extensively in the body.“

With fewer associated risks, proton therapy is often recommended for women with left-sided breast cancers because those tumors are often close to the heart.

“We know that radiation exposure can lead to heart issues even many years after treatment, which is why we want to reduce it as much as reasonably achievable,” Hyde said.

Convinced Dr. Hyde’s recommendation was her best option, Tammy became the McLaren Proton Therapy Center’s 1,000th patient.

“The techs and nurses make you feel so respected. They make sure you are comfortable.  They explain what the noises are.  They explain the whole process,” Tammy said.

Tammy lives in Lansing, however, and the McLaren Proton Therapy Center is in Flint.  She was concerned about getting to and from daily treatments for six weeks.  Those worries were put to rest when she found out she could stay at the Hospitality House at McLaren Flint, which provides low and no-cost accommodations for patients and their caregivers.

“I am so grateful and thankful for the Hospitality House.  It is a beautiful place and takes 80 percent of the stress out of this experience,” said Tammy.

Even with the Hospitality House and a care team she trusted behind her, Tammy still needed one more very important thing to help her find her way on this journey.

“I have always been one to go through things on my own. I didn’t tell anybody I had cancer for months, but I have truly learned to put my hand out and say I need help and I am really scared,” Tammy said. “It is okay to say, ‘I need help.’  Don’t go through this alone because it is a lot. “

To learn more about proton therapy and to find out whether you are a candidate, visit  If you are a candidate, and need a place to stay during treatments, visit