Knowing Risks and Acting Proactively

Breast cancer runs in the family for Amanda Coakley, 37, of Dubuque. Through regular mammograms and genetic testing, she knew her risks and acted proactively.

Amanda’s mother and two aunts had breast cancer and were found to carry the BRCA gene mutation. Last year, Amanda also tested positive for the BRCA gene mutation at the Wendt Cancer Center at Finley Hospital, where she works as a physical therapist.

She underwent genetic counseling at Wendt with Shana Coker, a nurse practitioner with the Helen G. Nassif Community Cancer Center. Coker referred Amanda to oncologist Rasa Buntinas, MD of Physicians’ Clinic of Iowa Hematology & Oncology because of her experience with high-risk patients.

“Genetic testing helped me make the decision to proceed with surgery,” Amanda said. “I always knew when I was done having kids that would be the next step.”

After her son was born in April, joining three older sisters, Amanda was undergoing work up for prophylactic mastectomy when further imaging found a suspicious area. This area was biopsied, and she was found to have breast cancer.

Amanda underwent surgery and began chemotherapy in August. Nassif Community Cancer Center Care Coordinator Mona Cook has worked to minimize Amanda’s trips to Cedar Rapids to no more than once per week. The proximity of plastic/reconstructive surgeon John Vander Zee, MD is another reason Amanda utilizes the Nassif Community Cancer Center, the first and only cancer center in Cedar Rapids accredited by the National Accrediting Program for Breast Centers (NAPBC).

Because genetic testing also showed her to be at risk of developing ovarian cancer, her journey will continue.

Amanda encourages women to learn their risk of having hereditary cancer syndrome and to have regular mammograms. “I’ve been pretty diligent about having yearly scans,” she said.

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