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Anesthesiologist's co-worker becomes her doctor after breast cancer diagnosis

York Hospital's Dr. Janel Nielsen never thought her co-worker and friend, Dr. Amanda Lewis, would become her doctor. Then Nielsen was diagnosed with breast cancer.

YORK, Maine — Anesthesiologist Dr. Janel Nielson and breast radiologist Dr. Amanda Lewis, have worked together at York Hospital for 10 years. Nielsen never thought Lewis would become her doctor.

"It's not a role I want to have," Lewis said. "I don't want to be my friend's physician."

At age 40, Nielsen was supposed to get a mammogram. She said she put it off. Then the pandemic happened and she put it off again.

"[I] took my referral and I feel like any other woman, kind of folded it up and thought, 'Oh, sure, I'll get that done,' and put it in my mom purse. There is no family history and you always think it's not going to happen to you," Dr. Nielsen said.

In December of 2020, Nielsen finally went to get a mammogram. Lewis was her radiologist.

"On both breasts, they found areas of concern that needed to be biopsied. Dr. Lewis said, 'No matter what I'm going to call you,'" Nielsen said.

On Christmas Eve, Nielsen got that dreaded phone call. She was diagnosed with breast cancer at 41 years old.

"I went into all of this very naive," Nielsen said.

Nielsen had a double mastectomy and six rounds of chemotherapy.

"I trusted Dr. Lewis for guidance," she said.

"It's surprising of course. Janel is a young female. She's healthy," Lewis said.

They are both pushing women to get a mammogram starting at 40 years old and for women to not put it off.

"Women who are at age 35-39 vs. women at age 40-44, the incidence of breast cancer doubles in that 40-44 age group. So the patients who are coming in for a screening, that's early detection. We find their cancers early and we find them curable and that's the key," Lewis said.

"Here I am as a physician and I didn't know 40 was the recommended age for a screening mammogram," Nielsen said.

Nielsen is still going through treatment with Lewis by her side.

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