By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Great Bend woman survives breast cancer thanks to early detection
Rachel Duryee, Great Bend, at the Imaging Center at The University of Kansas Health System Great Bend Campus.

Early detection of a tumor may have saved Rachel Duryee’s life. Duryee, who turned 35 a few weeks earlier, thought the little bump may have been inflammation or a blocked milk duct because she was still nursing her daughter when she noticed it.

She was mistaken. In December 2019, about three weeks after Duryee first noticed the bump, she learned that it was a fast-growing type of breast cancer. 

“I admit, I was reluctant to see the doctor,” Duryee said. “A couple weeks went by, but Dustin, my husband, kept saying he had a bad feeling about this. He strongly urged me to check into it. Thank goodness he did.”

Duryee saw Elise Snapp, APRN, at The University of Kansas Health System Great Bend Family Medicine. Snapp recommended Duryee get a mammogram quickly. 

Duryee followed up with a mammogram at Great Bend Campus imaging services, where she works as a radiology technologist. The technologist who performed Duryee’s mammogram “thought something didn’t look right,” Duryee said.

“The radiologist was there that day, and my biopsy was done immediately,” she said. “They found a cluster and sure enough ...”

The bump went from being small “to something I could wrap my hand around within several weeks,” Duryee said. “I ended up with multiple tumors and one really big one. It easily could have spread.”

Duryee credits Heather Ewy, who performed the mammogram, for knowing that the radiologist should be contacted right away.

“Heather’s skill level told her something should be done soon,” Duryee said. “She is so professional and compassionate and good at what she does.”

Duryee’s treatment started with six chemotherapy treatments beginning in January 2020 and ending four months later.

Then came a bilateral mastectomy, 35 radiation treatments over three months and the administration of an IV drug for a year. 

Duryee has no family history of breast cancer and does not have the BRCA gene mutation, which can increase the risk of breast cancer. She stresses that early detection is vital.

“If you find something, don’t put off going to the doctor,” she said. “No matter your age, be vigilant with self-exams too.”

“The best way to beat breast cancer is to find it early,” said Shannon Deines, imaging services manager. “The best way to find it early is with an annual mammogram.”

Women should schedule their first mammogram at age 40. If someone has a family history of breast cancer, healthcare providers may suggest starting earlier.

New technology offering mammograms with 3D capability has been available in Great Bend since March of this year, said Deines. 

“This is state-of-the-art technology,” Deines said. “A 2D mammogram provides just two pictures, while 3D captures a series of pictures from multiple angles. This three-dimensional image allows the radiologist to see smaller areas of the breast.”

An additional advantage of 3D mammography is that it decreases false positive results. Mammograms using 3D technology normally take only 10-15 minutes to complete.

Women who don’t have health insurance don’t have to forgo annual mammograms. The University of Kansas Health System in Great Bend offers breast cancer screenings for women age 40-64 through Early Detection Works, a program provided by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. In April, EDW began covering the cost of 3D mammograms. 

To schedule an appointment for a mammogram, call 620-791-6299. Appointments are available 8 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Monday and 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday-Friday. 

About The University of Kansas Health System Great Bend Campus 

The University of Kansas Health System Great Bend Campus is part of the premier academic health system providing a full range of care for the region and the state of Kansas. Other health system facilities are located in Kansas City and Topeka. The health system includes The University of Kansas Physicians, the largest multispecialty physician group in the region, and is affiliated with the University of Kansas Schools of Medicine, Nursing and Health Professions, and their leading-edge research projects. Services range from routine primary care to multispecialty care for complex conditions. The health system receives no state or local appropriations, instead relying on operating revenue, bonding authority and philanthropy. For more information, visit For information specific to Great Bend Campus, visit