Young Mother of Two is McLaren Proton Therapy Center's 900th Patient to Graduate

Author: Leslie Toldo

Hannah Burnor was vacationing with her family when she discovered a lump in her right breast.

“I wasn’t worried about it,” Hannah said. “I thought it might be a clogged milk duct.”

The 27-year-old mother of two girls had been struggling to breastfeed her newborn daughter because she could not pump milk from her right breast. It had also become swollen and uncomfortable. 

Concerned about the newly discovered lump, Hannah’s doctor ordered an ultrasound.  She ended up having two of the imaging tests and then a biopsy.

“I was at work when I got the call,” Hannah said. 

The voice on the other end delivered news that shattered Hannah.  She had breast cancer.

“I had a newborn and a two-year-old. I love being a mom more than anything in the world and it terrified me that I wasn’t going to be there for the big moments in their lives,” Hannah said. 

Hannah, who does not carry a breast cancer gene mutation, was diagnosed with an aggressive form of the disease on December 7, 2022, and started chemotherapy two weeks later.

“McLaren and Karmanos have been amazing, how quick they get you in, how fast they do scans, how quick they get back to you. I couldn’t be more thankful for that,” Hannah said. 

After chemotherapy, Hannah had a double mastectomy, then she needed radiation. 

“I had heard about proton therapy.  My uncle had it and told me to ask about it,” Hannah said.

Proton therapy was exactly what her radiation oncologist at Karmanos, Dr. Omar Gayar suggested.  Dr. Gayar is one of four radiation oncologists working at the McLaren Proton Therapy Center, part of the Karmanos Cancer Network.  

“At Hannah’s young age, proton therapy lessened the risk of secondary cancers from radiation exposure,” Dr. Gayar explained. “Proton therapy delivers more targeted radiation, with less risk of damage to healthy tissue than traditional photon radiation.”

Protons stop at the tumor, without exiting the body, like the X-rays used in traditional radiation, which is why proton therapy carries less risk of damage to surrounding organs and tissue. This is especially true of cancers in the left breast, which is close to the heart.  Some left-sided breast cancer patients suffer heart issues years after treatment with traditional radiation therapy.

“Even radiating right-sided breast cancers can sometimes pose a threat to the heart,” Dr. Gayar said. “So, treating Hannah with proton therapy also may have lessened the risk of damage that could affect her long-term heart health.”

Hannah had 33 treatments, visiting the McLaren Proton Therapy Center 5 days a week, until she was finished in August 2023.

“I had no bad side effects,” Hannah said. “I had some red skin, with peeling, like you might get with a sunburn.”

Along her journey, Hannah has met other women battling breast cancer, many of whom helped her get through it all with a positive mindset.

“It was so good to have people who have been through this, and joining support groups on Facebook really helped me.  I am so happy that now, when I see someone else with my form of breast cancer, I can reach out and help them,” Hannah said.

Now that her treatments are over, Hannah is looking forward to a bright future with her family.

“Just being able to watch my daughters grow up is everything I want out of life,” Hannah said.

To learn more about proton therapy or to schedule a consultation, visit

Routine breast cancer screening can lead to early detection, which the American Cancer Society says vastly increases the chances of survival.  The McLaren Flint Foundation is hosting a free breast screening event for uninsured and underinsured women on October 30, 2023.  For more information, click here. You can also call 810-342-1757 to make an appointment.