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Published on July 23, 2018

DNA sequence

For Iowa Woman, Avera Became a Destination for Health Care

Nancy Evans’s battle against breast cancer has led her to a few locations for care. Evans hails from Bettendorf, Iowa, and spends time in Arizona as well, and this retired early childhood educator now knows a few things about Midwestern destination health care.

It was in Sioux Falls, S.D. where she found what she calls “a life-saving jewel in the middle of the prairie.” Avera Cancer Institute in Sioux Falls oncology and genomic medicine professionals gave her what she needed: a more thorough look at the type of cancer affecting her.

That new look led her to a medication change and the positive outcomes she hoped for: more than half her cancer was gone after about two months of using the new medication. Her help came from Brian Leyland-Jones, MB, BS, PhD.

“He went back to my original test’s slide, and reexamined it. It turned out that I had an altogether different cancer, and that’s why the change in treatment worked so well,” Evans said.

A Slew of Differences

This change in approach, which included genomic sequencing of her cancer, was among a slew of differences that really spoke to her and made her realize that as a destination for health care, Sioux Falls was her best choice.

“When you see Brian, right away you know there’s genuine care in his approach – he cared about me, and it was really obvious,” she said. “Everyone was just so genuine – 100 percent. Brian, despite his extensive training, is one of the most down-to-earth doctors I have ever encountered .There are no pretenses; just total and loving care for his patients. He had none of the superiority that I have experienced with some specialist physicians. He gave me two or three hugs each time I visited, and as long as my journey continues, he will be a part of my team, and my life.”

That demonstration of compassion contrasted other experiences she had, but so too did the science. The type of recurring breast cancer she faced was initially diagnosed as what’s called HER-2 positive. Leyland-Jones went back, reviewed all the existing information and came to realize it was actually a type of cancer called HER-2 negative. The change in cancer medication has been a success so far, she said, and her cancer journey continues.

Evans continues to get personal help with each step in her voyage.

“When I had a blood test, it wasn’t someone I didn’t know calling me to give me an update on it – it was Brian himself,” she said. “I really feel like it was divine intervention that led me to him”

Expertise and Vividly Caring

Without the level of intervention she received at Avera, “I might not be here,” Evans said.

“There will never be a time when changes are made in my treatment plan without Brian being asked to review my scans and consult about those changes,” she said. “His expertise in genomic sequencing revealed my cancer was PIK3CA which what ultimately led us to the new treatment plan. It was his hard work and the results of it that indicated the Her 2 status change for me. I wish everyone had a Brian Leyland-Jones on their team.”

She honestly didn’t expect the quality of care she’s experienced when she first visited Sioux Falls, after her brother, Steve Touvelle, learned about Avera Cancer Institute online.

“From the minute you walk in and drop off your car, the sense of care is vividly apparent,” she said. “But so too is the science. The precision oncology team is widely respected and they are nationally known. I owe them all so much – and feel blessed that I found them and made that trip to see them.”

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