Routine Tests Saved Her Life… Twice!

Don't underestimate the importance of regular check-ups

A year ago, Barbara Hagan, an East Lansing,Mich., substitute teacher and then 47-year-old mother of three, sat in an examination room while her doctor reviewed the results of her MRI.

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A breast cancer survivor, Hagan was having her second breast MRI reviewed as a routine screening following the mastectomy she had four years prior.  The first MRI showed a serious abnormality in her heart, but it slipped under the radar, going undiagnosed for two years.  The second MRI detected the same genetic abnormality, and this time, doctors —and Barb Hagan— caught it.  The diagnosis: an enlarged ascending aortic aneurysm and faulty aortic valve.

After being referred by her family physician to the Clinic’s Heart and Vascular Institute, Barb saw Dr. Eric Roselli, Cleveland Clinic Cardiothoracic Surgeon, where he performed an ascending aorta replacement and aortic valve repair. Barb, an avid half-marathon runner and workout enthusiast was concerned heart surgery might slow her down, but it didn’t.  In fact, it sparked in her a new passion: a passion to encourage others to know their family’s medical history, to take routine exams and tests seriously, and to share their diagnoses with family members.

Hagan now advocates for women to get their annual mammogram, the test that led to the discovery of malignant calcifications in her left breast five years ago.  Her parents, five siblings and three children have all had echocardiograms (echo) at her insistence.  When Hagan’s 44-year-old brother received the results from his echo, he learned that he also has a large ascending aortic aneurysm.  At this time, his condition is minor and doesn’t require immediate attention, but doctors are now monitoring his heart for changes.

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In May, Hagan plans to run the 30th Annual Bay Shore Half— her first half-marathon since heart surgery and hopefully next September will enter Michigan State University to obtain her Master’s degree in Social Work.

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