News from Parkwest Healthy LIfestyles
Working as a nurse practitioner and parenting three small children with her husband, the last thing on Jamie Turner of Knoxville’s mind was breast cancer. When she felt a small lump in her breast one day in May of 2021, she disregarded it.
“I was actually weaning my 1-year-old from breastfeeding,” Turner says. “I thought it was just a clogged milk duct, so I kind of let it be, thinking it would go away eventually.”
Six months later she underwent a double mastectomy at Parkwest Medical Center. Today she shares her story to let other women know breast cancer has no age bias.
Letting It Go
The lump didn’t concern Turner much, but a coworker encouraged her to get it checked out anyway. She didn’t, still thinking it was a clogged milk duct and nothing to worry about.
Advanced digital mammography made the results clear. She not only had a mass in her right breast, she had something growing in her left breast too.
An ultrasound and biopsy followed. At the age of 33, Turner found out she had cancer in both breasts.
In her right breast, she had invasive ductal carcinoma, the most common form of breast cancer, starting in the milk duct and breaking through to surrounding tissue. In her left breast, she had non-invasive ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), which means cancer cells were in the lining of a milk duct but hadn’t spread yet. She was shocked.
“I thought that could not happen to me,” Turner says. “I had no family history; I was so young, my kids were young. How could that even be possible?”
Breast cancer is more common in older women, but it can happen at any age. The risk increases when a person has a family history of breast cancer, but it affects many women who don’t.
Turner drew support from the Knoxville-area group Breast Connect and included her loved ones in her battle plan. “My family, faith and friends walked me through this battle and cheered me on through every milestone,” she says.
After chemotherapy, the bilateral mastectomy was performed at Parkwest by Premier Surgical breast cancer surgeon William C. Gibson, MD.
“She was very strong during chemo, [which she had] prior to surgery. That shrank her tumor considerably, which makes for a better surgical result,” Dr. Gibson says, noting that most women in Turner’s age group take comfort in being more aggressive in their approach to breast cancer.
“I think there’s a lot of peace of mind in the risk reduction of having all the breast tissue removed so that they can get back to life,” Dr. Gibson says. “Jamie is a young mother and wife, and she’s a professional in health care as well. She wants to do all of those things without having the haunting fear of breast cancer over her in the future.”
As soon as Dr. Gibson performed the mastectomy, Premier Surgical plastic surgeon David Lo,
MD, stepped in to begin the reconstruction process with tissue expanders. The expanders can gradually stretch as the skin heals and be replaced with permanent implants later.
Turner is secure in her decision to have the mastectomy, confident in her surgeons and happy with her choice of hospital.
Turner says she’s doing great now – but takes a pause to deliver a message to other young women. The message is that breast cancer can happen to anyone.
“That is why monthly self-breast exams and yearly mammograms are incredibly important to catch the disease at its earliest stage,” she says. “If there is any question or concern regarding a lump, go get it evaluated.”
Dr. William Gibson is a Breast Surgeon at Premier Surgical at Parkwest in Knoxville. For more information about Premier Surgical’s Breast Cancer team visit https://www.premiersurgical.com/specialties/breast-cancer-surgery/.