Open Accessibility Menu

Fighting Cancer: Local Woman Credits Family and Care Team

Fighting Cancer: Local Woman Credits Family and Care Team

It’s been said that family knows you best. For Christina “Teena” Posas, 54, this adage may have saved her life. In October 2017, Teena was busy with life, not paying attention to her health. She had been experiencing frequent shortness of breath, but attributed it to a prior asthma diagnosis. When Teena couldn’t walk up the stairs at her parents’ Union City home during a visit, they knew something was wrong. They brought her to the Washington Hospital Healthcare System (WHHS) Emergency Department for a definitive answer.

It wasn’t asthma. Instead, ED physicians diagnosed Teena with stage IV breast cancer, meaning it had spread. Her cancer wasn’t caught the traditional way (through a mammogram) but through diagnostic imaging showing both a tumor and metastatic “spots” in other areas of her body. She calls that diagnosis her miracle.

“If I hadn’t gone to my parents’ home, I wouldn’t have gone to Washington Hospital,” Teena explained. “I would have continued to think I had asthma until it was too late. The ED physicians, oncologist and WHHS Nuclear Medicine Department made the diagnosis and got my treatment started right away.”

Because of the type of cancer and its spread, Teena’s oncologist, Dr. David Lee, decided against a mastectomy. With the UCSF - Washington Cancer Center team, Teena is able to receive academic-level care near her parents’ home. By the end of October 2017, she had begun a six-month course of chemotherapy, with daily infusions on a three-week-on, three-week-off basis.

When Dr. Lee relocated out of state, Teena began seeing hematologist-oncologist Carlton Scharman, MD. Teena started an ongoing regimen of full body bone scans performed by the WHHS Nuclear Medicine Department and overseen by Dr. Scharman. Nuclear medicine technology is used to see how a patient’s body is functioning. This can include cardiac testing, brain scans, or, as in Teena’s case, bone scans.

WHHS Nuclear Medicine technologists Dusty Finn and Leah Austin performed Teena’s scans. They helped allay her fears, talked her through days when the chemo had sapped her energy and made her feel like she was their only patient. “At first, Dusty and Leah felt like friends,” Teena said. “Now they are like family: they know me, they know my plan of care and they take good care of me.”

The body scans Teena needed required her to lie completely still for 40-45 minutes, which on many days, was a challenge. Last spring, the Imaging Department’s new equipment reduced that time to about 20 minutes. A youth minister at St. Joseph’s Church in Pinole, Teena’s time is valuable to her, so in addition to the reduced discomfort, the extra time was a blessing.

The new technology, the Siemens Symbia Evo Excel, is a dual-head gamma camera. The number of gamma camera heads increases the resolution of the final image and decreases the amount of time required for the scan, which is double-good news for patients like Teena.

SPECT (single-photon emission computed tomography) is a medical imaging technique that uses radioactive isotopes and special gamma cameras to create three-dimensional images with state-of-the-art image quality and superb workflow automation of the body's organs, tissue, and bones.

For Teena’s bone scans using SPECT imaging, the scan can help localize any areas of abnormal activity that may be present on the planar bone scan image. For the SPECT component, the nuclear medicine gamma camera rotates 360 degrees around the body and creates pictures based on the data it obtains. These 3D images can alert Dr. Scharman to any changes in Teena’s bones.

Teena leans on her strong faith, but she also credits her care team, including those at the Nuclear Medicine Department with giving her back her life. “I am so grateful that the new scan only takes 20 minutes,” Teena said. “I can get back to work without worrying about anything, and Dr. Scharman said the image quality is better, too. I am able to live my life, even with this ongoing cancer diagnosis, because Washington Hospital brought everything I needed together. I can’t say enough about the care I’m receiving.”

For more information about the outpatient imaging services at Washington Hospital, visit To learn more about WHHS cancer programs, including the UCSF - Washington Cancer Center, see