Personal Story: Linda's Surprising Diagnosis
In early 2006, Medford mom and wife Linda Xerri entered Virtua Voorhees to have a simple, minimally invasive procedure to remove a benign ovarian cyst.
She would be in and out of the hospital the same day. A few hours later, Linda awoke in a hospital room to the worried faces of her family.
The benign cyst turned out to be ovarian cancer. Within hours, Linda met with Virtua gynecologic oncologist, Randy Deger, MD, who laid out a surgical plan. “The goal was to find and destroy every bit of cancer in her body,” says Dr. Deger. A few days later, Dr. Deger performed surgery.
After a two-month recovery, Linda underwent 16 weeks of chemotherapy to eradicate any microscopic cancer cells that remained.
After completing treatment, Linda wanted to understand why she got ovarian cancer, when throughout her life she was most worried about breast cancer, the disease from which both her mother and maternal aunt had died. And, from age 18 on, Linda had been scrupulous about following all of the recommended breast cancer screenings for someone with a family history of the disease.
"When she developed ovarian cancer, I suggested that she have genetic counseling and testing," says Dr. Deger. "It revealed that she had a BRCA-1, a genetic mutation, which puts women at high risk of developing breast, as well as ovarian cancer.”
With the BRCA-1 genetic mutation, women have about a 40 percent risk of developing ovarian cancer in their lifetime and an 80 percent chance of developing breast cancer,” says Dr. Deger. Given this information, Linda made the tough decision to undergo a double mastectomy to reduce the chance of developing breast cancer.
In addition, she discussed the genetic risk with her 19-year-old daughter, who also will be at higher risk for having BRCA-1 and for developing breast and ovarian cancer.
While Linda credits Dr. Deger for his compassion and life-saving care, she admits that she only thinks of him four times a year when she goes in for follow-up appointments. This thrills him. “I don’t think of myself as a lifesaver,” admits Dr. Deger. “I have a skill that helps women live longer, healthier lives, and I’m happy I can share that.”