Valley oncologist opts for double mastectomy to avoid family history of cancer
PHOENIX — May is National Women’s Health Month and one Valley oncologist opted for a double mastectomy as a way to minimize her risk of breast cancer and take control of her health.
Professionally, Dr. Marnee Spierer has been an oncologist, mainly focusing on women’s cancers, for more than 20 years. Personally, she’s known her family’s risk of cancer for most of her life.
Spierer is the chief of staff, specializing in radiation oncology, at the Cancer Treatment Centers of America in Phoenix.
She lost a maternal aunt to breast cancer and her maternal grandmother to a women’s cancer. This knowledge of a looming risk was concerning.
Spierer met with a genetic counselor to learn her risks. She, her mother and her sister all tested negative for the breast cancer gene.
“But what I really wanted to know [was] my actual risk, according to all the models given my family history, that was kind of screaming for something,” Spierer said.
“There [are] so many things that go into the risk of developing cancer, it’s not as black and white as being a gene carrier or not.”
Despite being generally healthy and active, Spierer found her risk of cancer was abnormally high.
That risk turned to fear for Spierer when her sister was diagnosed with breast cancer two years ago.
“An ordinary breast cancer patient then became the third generation of women to be diagnosed with a female cancer [in my family],” Spierer said.
That’s when she decided to really learn what her options were when it came to combating her risk.
“I knew that for me, the treatment option I wanted to pursue was having the risk reduction surgery, which means have my breasts taken off… I don’t like to say preventatively because it doesn’t prevent breast cancer, it markedly reduces my risk,” Spierer said.
Spierer said after speaking with her sister as she was undergoing chemotherapy for her breast cancer and speaking with her husband, she decided on a double mastectomy as her course of action.
While Spierer knows that this is not the best choice for everyone, she emphasized that the most important thing anyone can do when it comes to their health is to know their risk and find the best treatment for them.
“I am not advocating for women to remove their breasts, I’m advocating for all women to know their risks,” she said. “And once you know your risks, having a relationship with your primary medical doctor or some healthcare provider who helps you navigate your treatment options once you know your risks.”
To learn more about your risk and option, or more about Spierer, visit the Cancer Treatment Centers of America, Phoenix website.