Lindsay and Howard Weinert (UM SJMC)
Lindsay Weinert with her father, Howard
Just two months after getting married, Lindsay Weinert, 28, heard some of the most difficult news of her life: “You have breast cancer.” However, her family’s battle with cancer was just beginning. Genetic testing revealed that both she and her father, Howard, had the BRCA gene mutation that puts them at higher risk for cancer. Soon after, Lindsay found out about her father’s diagnosis, and she was crushed. “It was harder to find out my dad had prostate cancer,” says Lindsay, who considers herself “a daddy’s girl.”
Cancer Care Goes Above and Beyond
Lindsay’s cancer was diagnosed because she was already being closely monitored by Michael J. Schultz, MD, director of the Breast Center at University of Maryland St. Joseph Medical Center. She had originally consulted with him about breast discomfort, which turned out to be fibroadenoma — a benign condition. Several months later, she developed breast pain and another mass. Dr. Schultz performed surgery and found a rapidly growing cancer that had developed in an adjacent area of the same breast.
“Unfortunately, mammography does not always work for young women,” explains Dr. Schultz. “Their breasts are too dense to pick up cancers, so even when a benign mass is discovered, it’s important that it is closely monitored by a physician.”
Lindsay’s treatment involved a lumpectomy, and, like every patient at the Breast Center, she was carefully evaluated by a multidisciplinary cancer team. Her cancer had spread to her liver, but thanks to the latest advancements available at UM St. Joseph Medical Center’s Cancer Institute, her medical oncologist, Yousuf Gaffar, MD, immediately began a combination of chemotherapy and targeted medication, “including one that had been FDA-approved just one month earlier,” he explains.
“The result has been an incredible regression of her liver and breast tumors,” Dr. Gaffar says. “Once we identified her BRCA gene, we also recommended removal of her ovaries. She’s doing great,” Dr. Schultz adds.
Although Lindsay’s cancer requires long-term management, her positive and grateful attitude shines through. “I cannot imagine having doctors and nurses who could care more about me. They’ve gone above and beyond, helping me deal mentally and physically. Plus, I have an awesome family.”
Minimally-Invasive Treatment for Dad
The Weinert family history includes Ashkenazi Jewish heritage on Howard’s side, plus his grandmother having breast cancer.
“One in 40 Ashkenazi women and men carry the BRCA gene,” Dr. Schultz says. “Anyone as young as Lindsay who has had breast cancer should have genetic testing.” Dr. Schultz recommended Howard have genetic testing, too.
“Dr. Schultz is fabulous,” Howard says. “He steered me to urologist Dr. Marc Siegelbaum, who examined me and said something didn’t seem right.”
Howard’s prostate-specific antigen (PSA) level was also elevated. These factors led Marc Siegelbaum, MD, chief of urology at UM St. Joseph Medical Center, to perform a biopsy, which diagnosed the cancer. “The cancer was extensive but contained,” says Dr. Siegelbaum, who performed a minimally invasive da Vinci robotic prostatectomy to remove the cancer.
Dr. Siegelbaum explains that biopsy is very important in the diagnostic process. “If your PSA increases more than 0.7 in a year, that’s a red flag. We perform a biopsy when there’s a steep rise. A small percentage of prostate cancer will not harm men, but 30,000 men a year die from the disease.”
Howard is now cancer-free. “It was the greatest thing to know that my father is surgically cured,” Lindsay says.
“Family history is important,” Dr. Schultz says. “If you think you may have an inherited cancer risk, talk to your primary care provider. If you test positive for BRCA, do something about it. Understand the difference between surveillance and prevention. There are options besides surgery, such as the medication tamoxifen, which can also reduce risk.”