Philippa Dimmock was treated at Spire Harpenden Hospital by Miss Harleen Deol, consultant oncoplastic surgeon, and Mr Stephen Burrell, consultant gynaecologist.
The risks of inherited breast cancer have recently been highlighted in the media, with the diagnosis and treatment of high profile celebrities such as Angelina Jolie. These inherited risks are commonly associated to a mutation in one of two genes, called BRCA 1 and BRCA 2. Although only about 5% of breast cancers run in the family, many women remain worried about genetic risks, particularly those with a strong family history of breast or ovarian cancer.
Recent high-profile stories have highlighted the BRCA gene, including Angelina Jolie and Sharon Osborn. This hereditary gene considerably increases the likelihood of developing breast and ovarian cancer.
Philippa Dimmock, a keen dressage competitor and artist who lives in Dunstable, was diagnosed with BRCA2 last February. Her mother died 12 years ago so she knew that the chances of developing breast or ovarian cancer were very high.
“My mum and grandmother both died of ovarian cancer when they were young (my mum died at 58 and my grandmother at 52) so I knew I needed to get checked when I hit 40.
"I was diagnosed with BRCA 2 last February. When I was diagnosed I knew my chance of getting ovarian cancer was greatly increased, but I didn’t know about the increased likelihood of breast cancer as well. That was a real shock for me.
"I chose Spire Harpenden Hospital as it is very local to me. Being able to choose my own consultant is very important to me, as I want to be able to get on with and trust the person who is operating on me. You wouldn’t let someone you didn’t like do work on your house, so why would you do the same with your body?
"I had my hysterectomy in April at Spire with consultant gynaecologist Mr Burrell. He came recommended by my GP and everything went smoothly.
"I chose Miss Deol, consultant breast surgeon, to carry out my mastectomy. She was recommended on a Facebook support group I am a member of. I booked an appointment to see her and really liked her professional manner. She wasn’t pretentious, just a normal person.
"She went through all of the possible procedures with me, discussing what each involved and their recovery time. I live a very busy life, training for dressage as well as working as an artist, so recovery time was key for me. Unlike many women, I opted to avoid reconstruction. I love to embrace life and didn’t want to spend any longer recovering than necessary. Miss Deol respected my decision.
"Once I had chosen the procedure, Miss Deol and I went through dates for surgery. I chose to have the operation in October as this is when my work is least busy, giving me plenty of time to recover.
"I had my operation in late October and was at Spire for four days. The operation went smoothly, the nurses on the ward were brilliant and very attentive to my needs.
"After I had been discharged there was a fluid build up which needed to be drained several times. I texted Miss Deol, and she arranged to see me and carry out the draining in out-patients the next day. It couldn’t have been easier!
"If I were to give advice to a patient about the start the same journey I would tell them not to settle for a consultant they are not happy with. The service at Spire was brilliant, I can’t fault it at all.”