‘Your lungs are filled with double pneumonia’: Breast exam leads to San Antonio woman’s COVID-19 diagnosis

San Antonio woman said breast exam led doctors to discover she had COVID-19.

SAN ANTONIO – A San Antonio woman says a breast exam led doctors to discover she had COVID-19, even though she wasn’t showing any symptoms.

Joanne Garcia discovered a lump in her breast earlier this year and underwent several exams.

“I actually went in to get a breast CT scan, so they could try and see where the cancer is,” Garcia said.

Garcia said she remembers the doctor uncovered more than just cancer during her June 26 appointment.

“She goes, ‘I can’t see anything visible with your breast cancer on the CT scan because you have COVID lungs. Your lungs are filled with double pneumonia,’” Garcia said.

Garcia, who sings in a rock band, did not experience any respiratory symptoms, but her doctor had an explanation for that.

“Luckily, because her lung reserve is tremendous because of her singing career, she had no shortness of breath,” said Dr. Maryam Elmi, breast surgical oncologist at UT Health San Antonio MD Anderson Cancer Center.

Garcia took medication for her pneumonia. However, due to the COVID-19 diagnosis, doctors had to modify her cancer treatment plan.

Elmi said chemotherapy would have impacted Garcia’s immune system, which was already trying to fight off the virus.

“Instead, with her surgical oncologist, Dr. Kaklamani, we decided to give something else called neoadjuvant endocrine, a hormone-blocking pill, but also is successful at downstaging a tumor before surgery,” Elmi said.

Garcia will have surgery in January. She says the public has to do its part to slow the spread.

“We have to stay vigilant and stay safe and wear our masks,” Garcia said.

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