Choosing Preventive Double Mastectomy

February 3, 2015
By: Duke Health News

With a long history of aggressive breast cancer in her family, Kesha Dozier of Raleigh decided, with her doctor's advice, to take matters into her own hands and undergo a preventive double mastectomy. "Taking preventive action makes me feel really confident," she said about her decision.

Taking health into her own hands

Kesha Dozier is a decisive, action-oriented woman, with three children in school, two fine chocolate boutiques, and no time to waste.

She also has a family with a long history of breast cancer. Her mother, her mother’s sister, grandmother, and great-grandmother all had aggressive breast cancer.

She started thinking about her own health at age 16 when her mother was diagnosed with stage 4 metastatic breast cancer; her mother remained a survivor for 15 years. Her mother’s cancer prompted Dozier to have a baseline mammogram at age 26, and she started doing research about genetic testing and preventive mastectomies.

When her daughter was born she became ready to learn more about her actual cancer risk.  Kesha decided to stay with Duke, where she already was receiving primary care. At the time, she had been working as a pharmaceutical representative and had gotten a chance to meet several providers. She decided on Victoria Seewaldt, MD, as the breast cancer specialist she wanted to consult.

Hereditary cancer clinic helped Dozier understand her risk

“Dr. Seewaldt reminds me of Laura Ingalls Wilder, the tough pioneer from the Little House on the Prairie,” Dozier said. “Don’t be mistaken by her sweet, calming and soft-spoken disposition. She is a bulldog for her patients and goes after what’s best for them with a progressive-minded outlook. She talked things over with me, made suggestions, and let me make the right decisions for my family and me. I couldn’t ask for a better provider!”

Dozier consulted the Duke Hereditary Cancer Clinic and found that she didn’t have any of the top candidate genes that are currently linked with breast cancer. Nevertheless, she decided to have a preventive mastectomy to eliminate worry in the future.

I am passionate in the fight against all cancers.

Empowerment from action

Seewaldt also helped her connect with others at Duke, and provided notes from Dozier’s file about the possible surgeries and treatments they had discussed. She talked with breast surgeon Shelley Hwang, MD, and discussed reconstructive options with plastic surgeon Gregory Georgiade, MD.  “The continuum of care I receive from different departments as a Duke patient is very helpful and convenient,” Dozier said.

“Taking preventive action makes me feel really confident,” she said. “It’s empowered me to act as a patient liaison from Duke to my community. I am passionate in the fight against all cancers.”