Know Your Risk: Radiologist Undergoes Breast Cancer Treatment Herself

Lindsay Luttrell, MD, is a 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.

Leslie Luttrell holding her dog.
Radiologist Lindsay Luttrell, MD, with her dog, Pinto. After
experiencing breast cancer firsthand she now shares her
story with her patients.

Once 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 C. Gibson, MD, FACS, 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.

Dr. Gibson in suit.


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

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 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 mammograms.” Reflecting on lessons learned from her cancer journey, she says, “No one is promised  tomorrow. The experience taught me to enjoy each day, pursue relationships and be the healthiest  version of myself that I can be.”

Making a Decision about Breast Reconstruction

The decision to have breast reconstruction is a personal one. It depends on how you think you will feel after a mastectomy. If you think you would feel uncomfortable with a flat chest or wearing a false breast (prosthesis), you may want to consider breast reconstruction. If you don’t want to have any more surgeries, you may not want to do it. If you’re thinking of having breast reconstruction, talk with your doctor about it before you have your mastectomy.  Your doctor will talk with you about factors that
can affect whether the surgery will work for you.

These include:

  • The size and location of the cancer, which determines the amount of skin and tissue to be removed
    during the mastectomy
  • The amount of tissue removed from the breast
  • Whether your chest tissue has been damaged by radiation therapy or aging, and is not healthy
    enough for reconstruction surgery
  • Your overall health and health history

About Parkwest Comprehensive Breast Center

Gold seal of excellence from ACR.Parkwest Comprehensive Breast Center offers high quality services, an outstanding staff and the latest in screening technology. The breast center has been recognized as a Breast Imaging Center of Excellence by the American College of Radiology and is a comprehensive, multi-disciplinary program offering a full spectrum of clinical and support services.

Call (865) 373-7010 to schedule your appointment today!

Convenient Location:
The Breast Center is located at 9330 Park West Boulevard, Suite 103, inside the Parkwest Physician’s Plaza.

What is 3D Mammography?

The Parkwest Comprehensive Breast Center is proud to have been the first breast center in East Tennessee to offer tomosynthesis (3D mammography), the latest breast cancer screening technology, to our patients. This 3-Dimensional digital technique is used to detect breast cancer in women with dense breast tissue or who are at high risk for breast cancer. The technology allows physicians to “see through” much of the dense tissue and better detect small cancers that may have otherwise been hidden. No physician referral is required for a 3D mammogram.

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