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Pam Cerceo has two daughters in college that mean the world to her. They are the primary reason she is proactive with her health. After watching her mother and sister successfully battle breast cancer, Pam decided to learn what her risks were through genetic testing.
Pam's first step was a breast cancer screening with an MRI and mammogram. Although the mammogram result was negative, the MRI came back abnormal. She chose to have her biopsy at Fox Chase, which showed she had atypical cells.
Genetic testing revealed Pam was at increased risk for breast cancer.
Fox Chase Cancer Center genetic counselor Melanie Corbman worked closely with Pam through the process. They learned that Pam tested positive for a variant of unknown significance in BRCA2. Melanie explaned, "This is a change in the BRCA2 gene for which we do not yet have enough information to determine exactly how it affects the gene." What is known is that it may increase a woman's risk of breast cancer. Pam's mother and sister, both of whom had breast cancer, tested positive for this variant, suggesting that it could be linked to an increased risk. Putting this information together with Pam's family history and biopsy results helped her make decisions on how best to protect herself.
"Knowing that I had three factors working against me - atypia, family risk and a positive gene mutation, I had no choice but to take action," explains Pam, who wanted to act quickly. "I decided to have a prophylactic mastectomy with immediate reconstruction so that I could resume my life without constant worrying of someday getting cancer. The doctors offered me the choice of taking the drug tamoxifen with periodic screenings, but I always knew that I would chose a mastectomy if I was ever faced with the decision."
Choosing surgery to prevent breast cancer put an end to her worries.
Pam and her husband had their first meeting with Fox Chase surgeon Richard Bleicher, MD, and plastic and reconstruction surgeon Sameer Patel, MD, both of whom she felt very comfortable with. "They were very informative and accommodating. It felt good to be under their care," admitted Pam.
After surgery in November 2008, Pam underwent expander fills for a few months in Dr. Patel's office. Expander fills are like balloons that are filled gradually until they reach the desired size. They prepare the breast tissue for surgery. About 4 months later, in March 2009, Dr. Patel completed the reconstruction with surgery where he replaced the expanders with implants. Dr. Patel, along with his physician assistants, Matt Wetherhold, PA-C, and Lisa DiSandro Wetherhold, PA-C, worked closely with Pam leading up to the surgery.
"It was a very stress-free experience due to Dr. Patel's constant reassurance."
"What a professional team they are," shared Pam. "Dr. Patel possess a unique quality of making his patients feel that the most important thing to him is their complete satisfaction in their reconstruction outcome. It was a very stress-free experience due to Dr. Patel's constant reassurance of a good outcome."
"I have no regrets and am thrilled with my results."
For now Pam feels healthy and happy with her decision. "I have no regrets and am thrilled with my results," Pam explained. "I think I look even better than I did before!"