McLaren Proton Therapy Center Treats 800th Patient

Author: Leslie Toldo


In early 2020, before Covid-19 reached pandemic proportions, Judy Springsteen had her regular screening mammogram.

“Everything was fine,” Judy said. “There was nothing unusual. ” Like so many women during the pandemic, Judy skipped her 2021 mammogram. She did not think much of it when she finally scheduled one in September 2022. However, this time the screening did not end with a mammogram. “They followed up with an ultrasound,” Judy said. “They found two lumps, one in each breast.”

Judy was initially not worried, believing the lumps were merely fatty tissue since she’s never had any problems. A few weeks later, Judy had a core needle biopsy in each breast, and on November 7, 2022, she learned she had stage one breast cancer.

Judy then met with Dr. Ashley Richardson, a breast surgeon with the Karmanos Cancer Institute at McLaren Flint. Dr. Richardson recommended Judy get tested to find out if she carried one of the high-risk breast cancer genes. She stressfully waited for the results. If she had the gene, a double mastectomy would be required. The genetic testing came back negative, and, in December, Judy had a double lumpectomy. As a precaution, Dr. Richardson also removed several lymph nodes from each side, that were negative.

Judy’s next step was radiation. Instead of going with traditional radiation therapy, her oncologist referred Judy to radiation oncologist Dr. Brian Yeh, at the McLaren Proton Therapy Center, part of the Karmanos Cancer Network.

“Traditional radiation, or x-rays are an effective weapon against cancer cells, but they move through the targeted area, and continue delivering radiation as they exit the body,” said Dr. Yeh. “Proton therapy delivers a higher dose of radiation to a specific target, with precision, then stops. There is no exit dose of radiation, which means much less risk of damage to healthy organs and tissue.”

In Judy’s case, that meant we were able to avoid potential long-term damage to her heart, which can happen with traditional radiation, especially when it is used to treat the left breast.”

Armed with that knowledge, Judy became the 800th patient at the McLaren Proton Therapy Center.

“I’m beyond grateful for the support, guidance and professional advice I was given on what to do and how to get through it all,” Judy said. Judy had proton therapy five days a week for four weeks, with great results.

“I am still frightened the cancer may come back,” Judy said, “But I’m confident this was the right procedure for me to go with.”

Cancer is a difficult journey, but Judy said it’s one you can get through with the right mindset. “Be positive about everything that’s going on. Live your life and be happy.”

To learn more about proton therapy and the McLaren Proton Therapy Center, visit