Katie Gascho had both her breasts surgically removed. But she didn’t have breast cancer ... yet.
Because her sister developed breast cancer at age 34 and learned about genetic testing, she encouraged Katie to be tested. Katie took her older sister’s advice. She had the test, and didn’t think much of it after that. Then the phone call came. She tested positive for the genetic mutation (BRCA1) that significantly increased her risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer—possibly at an early age.
Katie and her husband talked to Thomas Heck, MD, co-medical director of the Samaritan Breast Center at Good Samaritan North Health Center. After much contemplation and discussion, Katie decided a double mastectomy was the route she wanted to take. “The nurse explained the odds of me developing cancer were increased to 87 percent.” Katie said the decision wasn’t easy, but with time it became very clear she wanted the burden lifted. “Dr. Heck told me I could be checked every six months, but I wanted to significantly reduce my risk.”
Initially, Katie felt testing positive was unfair. “I had cancer before (Hodgkin’s lymphoma). It was horrible going through that experience, and since that time I had made changes in my life.” She was eating right, exercising, and she just didn’t want to believe she had the genetic mutation for breast cancer.
The decision to have a double mastectomy with reconstruction wasn’t easy. “The responsibility of the decision that needed to be made was weighing heavy on me. I was very emotional the day I found out.” But, when her path crossed with the Samaritan Breast Center, Katie knew she was in the right place.
“I remember our experience was so positive from the moment we walked in the door.” She also remembers how reassuring Dr. Heck was. “He reassured me I could have a normal life.”
Katie is now in the midst of breast reconstruction and feels terrific. The busy mother of two is pleased with her decision, and plans to eventually have her ovaries removed. She’s happy BRCA testing is available and said this is medical knowledge that may have saved her life. “I want to raise my children and enjoy life with my family.”