20-year-old with family history of cancer chooses to have preventative mastectomy

Kelly Rothe will be youngest patient ever at Beaumont Hospital to undergo procedure

ROYAL OAK, Mich. - In a hallway of Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, there's a tile mural with artwork created by cancer patient and their families.

One of them was made by 38-year-old breast cancer patient Nancy Rothe, another by her then 7-year-old daughter, Kelly.

Rothe lost her battle with the disease in 2002.

Now, 14 years later, her daughter is taking a big preventative step: a double mastectomy.

"This Friday, I am having a preventative mastectomy because I have the BRCA-1 gene, which means my lifetime risk of breast cancer is 87 percent," Kelly said.

She was tested for the gene mutation and found out she carried it when she was 18.

The now 20-year-old didn't want to die from the same disease that claimed her mother's life, and later on, one of her aunts.

"For me, this choice was easy. I've always wanted to have children … I watched my mom go through breast cancer and I watched what it did to my family, and I never want to do that to my kids," Kelly said. "I do have vivid memories of sitting upstairs in this very building … a lot of my childhood was spent in this building."

Some of the doctors who worked to save Kelly's mother's life are now part of the team who will perform the procedure.

"We are all born with the BRCA genes. We all have them. The patients who are mutation carriers have a faulty copy of that gene, which makes them likely to develop breast cancer and ovarian cancers," said Beaumont surgeon Dr. Nayana Dekhne. "Fortunately, these two organs are not necessary for survival. When the timing is right, if we can take away the offending organs so to say, and decrease the risk, we've at least helped reduce the risk of one cancer."

Kelly will be the youngest patient to ever have the procedure at Beaumont.

"When I saw a 20-year-old on my schedule, I said to my staff, ‘Why are you booking 20 year olds for mastectomies for me to see? You're wasting my time.' And they said, ‘Well, why don't you go and see who she is,'"Dekhne said.

Kelly said she and Dekhne talked about her family history.

"Just the way I spoke, I was very certain, I'm still very certain in my decision, and I think she kind of understood that," Kelly said. "Then it was just a matter of, all right, let's make sure you know everything and let's do this."

Kelly's father, Bob, supports her decision.

"This is definitely preventative. Kelly is in the healthiest that she probably ever will be. So, why not minimize the risk now?" he said.

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