More women choosing to undergo genetic testing for breast cancer gene



PITTSBURGH - More and more women are deciding to undergo genetic testing for breast cancer in hopes of being alerted to the risk much earlier.

Channel 11’s Jennifer Abney talked to Mary Holm, whose sister Debbie lost her battle with breast cancer at age 30. She was diagnosed at 28.

“She was just a very positive person and especially when she was fighting cancer she had nothing but hope,” Holm said. “She was five months pregnant with her third child when she noticed a lump on her breast.”

Holm said her family did research and found out that several family members on her father’s side had a gene for breast cancer.

“We went ahead and got tested. She was BRCA 1 positive and I was the same,” Holm said.

Genetics counselor Dr. Meagan Roberts said there are two genes that can run on either side of the family.

“There’s a common myth out there that you only get it from your mother’s side of the family,” Roberts said.

If cancer runs in the family, doctors said women have an increased risk of breast cancer by 80 percent, and ovarian cancer by 40 percent.

"Having the knowledge is power. Once you know you have a mutation, know you have a certain risk, and you can take steps proactively and find things quicker at an earlier, more treatable stage,” Dr. Stephanie Hines, of the Mayo Clinic, said. “You can take steps to prevent cancer and you can inform your family so they can take steps to protect themselves."

Once Holm learned she carried a gene she chose testing and surveillance. She said she recommends all women consider the testing so they know their options to make informed decisions.