L13 — March 2011 — Genetic Testing for Breast Cancer
Intro: It could be your mom, sister, aunt or best friend. One out of 8 women will get breast cancer in her lifetime. A small subset of the women who get diagnosed have inherited an abnormal copy of a gene that runs in families and can greatly increase their risk of certain cancers. One question these women and their families face is, "Should I get tested to find out if I have a genetic risk?" The answer is always a very personal one.
She was just a very positive person. Particularly when she was fighting cancer, she had nothing but hope.
Mary Holm's sister, Debbie, lost her battle with breast cancer when she was just 30 years old. She was diagnosed at age 28.
She was five months pregnant with her third child and she noticed a lump in her chest.
Because Debbie was so young, Mary's family did a little research and found out some people on her dad's side of the family carried a breast cancer gene.
So we went ahead and got her tested, and she was BRCA1 positive. Then I was tested and I was the same.
There's a common myth out there that you can only get this from your mother's side of the family.
Singular genetics counselor Maegan Roberts says that's not true. There are two known breast cancer genes that can run on either side of your family. And they increase a woman's risk of breast cancer by about 80 percent and your risk of ovarian cancer by about 40 percent. The question is, if it runs in your family, should you get tested?
I tend to think about it in terms of knowledge. Having the knowledge is power. Once you know that you have the mutation, and you know you have a certain risk, you can take steps proactively to find things quicker, at an earlier, more treatable stage. Or you can inform your family so they can take steps to protect themselves as well.
Dr. Stephanie Hines says if you have the gene you can increase surveillance with tests like self-breast exams, mammography and MRI, or you can take medication such as tamoxifen, or have a mastectomy to remove both breasts, or surgery to remove ovaries. Once Mary learned she carried the BRCA1 gene, she chose surveillance. She recommends all women considering genetic testing know their options so they can make informed decisions.
Because you need to know what you're going to do with that information.
Information that will help keep Mary and her family cancer-free.
For Medical Edge, I'm Vivien Williams.
Most women who get breast cancer do not carry either of the two known genes. But those who do have a significantly increased risk of getting the disease.
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