News from Parkwest Health & LIfestyles
Healthcare professional Kim Johnson has always kept an eye on her health. With a diagnosis of melanoma (skin cancer) in her past, she now takes preventive measures for herself and her family, including routine exams.
After genetic testing revealed multiple cancer-causing mutations, Johnson underwent a double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery to prevent the development and spread of cancer cells in her breast tissue.
Thanks to the expert team at Parkwest Medical Center in Knoxville, Johnson is a living testament to the benefits of taking action in the right moment.
It was after turning 40 and having her first mammogram that Johnson began to think about her breast health and family history of breast cancer. After the mammogram was inconclusive, Johnson was referred to the Parkwest Comprehensive Breast Center, located at Parkwest Medical Center.
She underwent a 3D ultrasound and a biopsy of tissue was taken for testing. The biopsy was negative for cancerous tissues, which meant she wasn’t facing a cancer diagnosis – a welcome piece of news.
Knowing her grandmother and two aunts had previously battled breast cancer and wanting to be an example for her sisters, Johnson decided to pursue genetic testing at the Breast Center. The non-invasive tests indicated rare genetic mutations that put her at a high risk of developing breast cancer and other cancers later in life.
A Big Decision
“It was concerning, and I was surprised at the initial results,” Johnson shares. “I have a twin sister who ended up having the same genetic mutation as I did. I have a younger sister who could also have been at risk.
“My thoughts immediately went to my family. I want to stay around for my kids. None of us knows the number of days we have left. I wanted to increase the likelihood of being around for my family.”
At age 42 and already having had children, Johnson was a candidate for a preventive mastectomy. In this procedure, the breast is removed to prevent the development of cancer in high-risk women.
Her surgeon was William C. Gibson, MD, FACS, Premier Surgical general surgeon at Parkwest Medical Center. Dr. Gibson says that without intervention, the genetic mutations linked to cancer and Johnson’s strong family history would have put her at about 75 percent risk of developing breast cancer and possibly other cancers.
It was after much conversation, prayer and research that Johnson decided to have preventive surgery. In March 2023, she underwent a bilateral prophylactic nipple- sparing mastectomy. Both breasts were surgically removed and implants were later inserted.
“I’m grateful to have caught and identified the risk before it turned into cancer,” Johnson says. “I have no regrets.”
Worth the Risk
Post-operation, Johnson’s risk of developing cancer went from 75 to 1 percent, says Dr. Gibson. “Kimberly did extremely well. We did thorough imaging and testing to make sure no cancer was present. Because none was present, we could take preventive steps and address the risk on the front end. If cancer had been present and we were treating existing cancer cells, that would be a different story.”
He added, “Those who could benefit from genetic testing are typically people with a strong family history of cancer, or women who have already had a cancer diagnosis before age 50. Anyone who is curious about it should consult their primary care physician.”
Confidence at Parkwest and Beyond
Johnson says, “I knew Dr. Gibson would be meticulous with my case; he is amazing to work with. This was a big decision to make but I had no trouble going through with the surgery under his care because I had all confidence in him. He also helped me find peace of mind. My faith and belief in God gave me hope and helped guide some of these big decisions,” she says. “I know surgery is not for everyone. There are so many factors that come into play. I encourage people to be in tune with their bodies and use that knowledge to empower them to take healthy steps for themselves.”
Dr. William Gibson is a general surgeon with the Premier Surgical Associates office at Parkwest Medical Center in Knoxville, TN. He specializes in the surgical treatment of breast cancers. To request an appointment with Dr. Gibson, please call (865) 690-5263.