Know Your Risk: Radiologist Undergoes Breast Cancer Treatment

Parkwest Health & Lifestyles

Lindsay Luttrell, MD, is a Knoxville radiologist who reviews and interprets diagnostic imaging tests such as CTs, X-rays, MRIs, ultrasounds and mammograms. She often helps her patients understand the results and implications of their imaging tests.

Dr. Luttrell has practiced general radiology for a decade. She is also a runner, cyclist, wife and mom. She leads an active lifestyle and was surprised to learn at a young age that she herself had developed breast cancer.

As a Radiologist who experienced breast cancer first hand, Dr. Luttrell now shares her story with her patients.

When Dr. Luttrell suspected an abnormality in her left breast, she knew she needed to seek further medical care. A screening mammogram revealed a mass in the breast.

She sought the counsel of William Gibson, MD, FACS, a Premier Surgical general surgeon at Parkwest Medical Center. Dr. Gibson specializes in the surgical treatment of breast cancer, and also performs general and laparoscopic surgery for other conditions.

Seeking Treatment

“I went in for a 3D mammogram,” she says. “With this advanced technology, you can see the faintest, smallest mass and sure enough, that’s what they saw. It was suspicious enough to biopsy, and it came back as breast cancer. I was 34.”

Dr. Gibson says, “Patients see me as soon as they are diagnosed with cancer. My job is to assess the type of cancer, including the size and biology, and formulate a treatment plan for each patient.

“For patients facing breast cancer, many times surgery is a first step, and that often includes a decision between a lumpectomy or a mastectomy. Other times, a tumor is large enough to require a mastectomy. In Lindsay’s case, it was her choice. She is educated in this area, so she had a highly intellectual  understanding of the situation.”

Surgery at Parkwest

Dr. William Gibson

In December 2019, the day before her 35th birthday, Dr. Luttrell underwent a bilateral mastectomy, or surgical removal of both breasts, with immediate single stage reconstructive surgery.

Dr. Gibson performed  the mastectomy, in which he removed all breast tissue while leaving the healthy skin remaining. Luttrell received implants during the same surgery from Timothy Wilson, MD, plastic surgeon at Parkwest Medical Center. She went home from the hospital that same day.

“I had known that Dr. Gibson came highly recommended, and I’m so glad I went to him,” says Dr. Luttrell. “Dr. Gibson is 100 percent patient-centered. He reviewed the options with me, and I felt like he supported me whatever I chose. I can’t say enough about both him and Dr. Wilson.”

“She did very well, had no complications and had an excellent outcome,” says Dr. Gibson.

Advocating for Herself

“I always knew that if I ever got breast cancer I would have a bilateral mastectomy,” says the radiologist. “When it happened, I wanted to feel like I did everything I could do to keep it from coming back,” she says. “So I was ready for whatever aggressive form of treatment I could do.”

Luttrell explains that after surgery, pathology reports were conducted on the breast tissue and given a recurrence score. “That score determines a tumor’s aggressiveness and how likely it is to recur. My score was at the high end of intermediate, so they recommended I undergo chemo to ensure the cancer did not recur, and I agreed.”

Her husband, also a physician, and her then six year- old son were supportive of whatever the wife and mother needed as she faced her cancer diagnosis and treatment. Dr. Luttrell underwent four rounds of chemotherapy to be sure no cancer cells remained in surrounding tissue.

She shares, “Although I felt constantly nauseated, I did run, swim and bike throughout treatment. There were bad days, but on those days I rested. I do find peace and stress relief through exercise, so I was glad I was already in the habit.”

Healing Emotionally and Physically

Now, healthy and in remission, she views her cancer experience as a gift. The most challenging part of this experience was the emotional toll, which Dr. Luttrell says she underestimated.

“It has changed the way I approach patients,” she says. “I am the one who performs the biopsy and tells the patient their results. I share my story when it’s appropriate, and I’m able to encourage other women going through a similar diagnosis.”

Know Your Risk

She urges women to know their bodies and know their risks. Dr. Luttrell notes that even though screening mammograms are recommended annually beginning at age 40, she was only 34 when she was diagnosed.

“If you feel any lump or “If you feel any lump or bump at all, I recommend getting it checked out. Imaging can help determine if a patient has dense breast tissue and exhibits ‘normal lumpiness,’ or if it could be cancer.”

Her message to the community is to get a screening. “Screenings save lives. My advice is to be proactive about your own health; move your body and know what fuels it. And stay educated on screening exams like mammographies.” Reflecting on lessons learned from her cancer journey, she says, “No one is promised  tomorrow. The experience taught me to enjoy each day and be the healthiest version of myself that I can be.”

Dr. William Gibson is member of the Premier Surgical Breast Cancer Team that specializes in the diagnosis, treatment and reconstruction surgery for breast cancer patients. For more information about breast treatment with Premier Surgical, visit:


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