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El Camino Hospital and Me

Robynne's Story: Choosing a Double Mastectomy

Many women around the world fear a breast cancer diagnosis more than just about any disease--regardless of whether or not they have a family history of it.

But for Robynne, whose older sister was indeed diagnosed with Stage II breast cancer at age 34, developing breast cancer at some point in her lifetime was a real possibility.

So, at the age of 32, Robynne committed to getting her mammogram every year, no matter what. And, for 14 years, everything turned out OK.

But then in 2011, just before her 46th birthday, Robynne was asked to return for a follow up appointment on a routine mammogram by then then-director of the El Camino Hospital Breast Health Center, radiologist Jessie Jacob. Dr. Jacob informed her, after a follow-up breast ultrasound was performed, that her results were mixed. It was one of those cases, unfortunately all too common in the world of cancer, where the area in question was unclear, meaning Robynne could move forward with a needle biopsy or she could choose a "wait and see" approach.

After discussing it together, Robynne and Dr. Jacob decided, based on Robynne's family history, that a biopsy was needed. Unfortunately, the biopsy came back as "atypical lobular hyperplasia" with a "radial scar" at the site, which meant she was at increased risk of developing cancer.

Robynne had a lumpectomy (partial breast removal) with Dr. Peter Naruns, and learned that she did, in fact, have early-stage ductal carcinoma, which, of course, needed immediate treatment. Robynne chose the most aggressive option--the double mastectomy--because she simply "didn't want to live in fear" of the cancer coming back or spreading to her other breast.

Today Robynne has recovered from her surgery and reconstruction, and says she is "so grateful" that Dr. Jacob took the time to thoroughly look at her case and discuss it with her. Another radiologist might have chosen to simply monitor Robynne - but had she waited, the cancer could have grown and become life-threatening.

"I never send anyone cards, but as soon as I could, I wrote Dr. Jacob a thank you note," says Robynne, who is extremely happy to have put the entire experience behind her and moved on with her life, her family and her career.