As a physician who specializes in pathology, Kimberly Allison, MD, FCAP,diagnoses breast cancer every day in the laboratory. While leading the Breast Pathology department at the University of Washington Medical Center, her life took unexpected turn. At age 33, she was diagnosed with Stage 3 HER2-positive breast cancer.
Dr. Allison, a young mother at the time, recalls, “Being diagnosed with breast cancer was one of most terrifying experiences of my life. You don’t know the details or how bad your prognosis is. Your mind goes to the worst possibilities.”
The transition from a pathologist who diagnoses breast cancer to a patient led Dr. Allison to seek out stories of survival from other patients. This craving ultimately led her to share her own story of hope through her memoir, Red Sunshine.
Surviving HER2 breast cancer and continuing to practice pathology provided Dr. Allison with a unique opportunity. She was asked to help write the patient communications section of the updated evidence-based guideline, “Recommendations for Human Epidermal Growth Factor 2 Testing in Breast Cancer,” developed by the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) and the College of American Pathologists.
The updated guideline includes key points for doctors to discuss with patients regarding their breast cancer’s HER2 status. The updated guideline: • Recommends all patients with invasive breast cancer have HER2 testing performed on tissue samples from the tumor• Has specific recommendations to help ensure that the highest-quality tissue sample is used and the test performance is optimized and standardized• Helps doctors interpret challenging cases• Encourages that testing is performed in an accredited laboratory that follows standards set for accreditation by the College of American Pathologists (CAP) or an equivalent accreditation authority.
Dr. Allison is available to share her story to inspire and help other breast cancer patients, as well as to offer insight into the patient section of the ASCO/CAP HER2 testing guideline.