"They re-wrote my future." — Lauren Levinson

October 17, 2018
GW Health News Magazine 2018 GW Hospital, Washington, DC

Days before finding out she was pregnant with her second child, Lauren Levinson learned that she had the BRCA1 mutation, a genetic alteration that made it about three to seven times more likely for her to develop breast cancer in her lifetime.*

Lauren’s mom had recently been diagnosed with breast cancer for a second time, which prompted Lauren to get tested. “Late 2013 into 2014 was quite a roller coaster,” she says. “I had to be attentive to my mom’s care, all while processing my own high risk of getting cancer and maintaining a healthy pregnancy.”

Determined to have a plan for her future and understand her options, Lauren met with board-certified genetic counselor Elizabeth Stark, MS, CGC, at GW Hospital. Lauren says she was “all-too-aware that my odds were not improving with time,” so in March 2017, at age 38, she opted to have a preventative bilateral prophylactic mastectomy and DIEP flap reconstructive surgery with Chief of Breast Surgery Christine Teal, MD, and Teresa Buescher, MD, a board-certified plastic surgeon.

Her doctors’ unwavering commitment to her future health and happiness stood out. “For me to know that Dr. Teal and Dr. Buescher were just as focused on long-term results as I was made me feel very empowered,” she says.“I was worried about what such a serious reconstruction would look like, and these doctors and their teams brought their A-game.”

Dr. Buescher explains that Lauren’s DIEP flap reconstruction involved transferring tissue from the abdomen to create new breasts. “The nice thing is that your own tissue is used for a permanent reconstruction. It’s comfortable, and once you’re done, you’re done,” Dr. Buescher says.

“My kids cuddle up with me all the time, and I was nervous that they might shy away or that mommy would feel different,” Lauren recalls. A defining moment for her, she says, is when she realized that her kids couldn’t tell.

“In one very long and complicated surgery, my odds of developing breast cancer were reduced by up to 90 percent,** and I got healthy breasts that look and feel like the originals,” Lauren says. “My team at GW re-wrote my future, and I will be forever grateful for their expertise and support.”

Learn more about breast surgery at GW Hospital >

*Breastcancer.org, breastcancer.org/symptoms/testing/genetic/pos_results
**National Cancer Institute, www.cancer.gov/types/breast/risk-reducing-surgery-fact-sheet