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Managing Your Breast Cancer Risk: A Family’s Journey

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family's journey managing breast cancer risk Nelson Marques/PhotoSpin

The American Cancer Society estimated that in the United States, one in eight women, or 12 percent, will be diagnosed with an invasive breast cancer.

That estimated lifetime risk increases to about 60 percent in women who have mutations to the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes, according to the National Cancer Institute.

Knowing that you have a strong family history of breast cancer can affect how you manage your cancer risk. That was the case for three sisters — Melissa, Kristy and Erica — whose mother survived breast cancer, had a grandmother and aunt who passed away from breast cancer, and three aunts who are BRCA positive.

When Kristy discovered a benign breast lump, she learned that she was BRCA positive; her sisters would learn they too were BRCA positive a year later.

EmpowHER talked to Melissa, Kristy, Erica and their mother Leonora about their journey. EmpowHER also talked to Dr. C. Andrew Salzberg, who pioneered “One Step” breast reconstruction 11 years ago, about the procedure and its benefits for patients.


You have a family history of breast cancer. How did that affect how you managed your cancer risk?

Melissa, Kristy and Erica:

We knew about our cancer risk since our mom was diagnosed with breast cancer in '97 right after her sister had passed away from it the year before. She thought this was too much of a coincidence and decided to get checked.

We were 13, 12 and 9 at this time, so we had a long time to prepare ourselves for the news that one day we might have this gene. Seeing numerous relatives receive this news before us as well as some having breast cancer, showed us that we can take preventative measures such as mammograms, MRIs and of course the prophylactic surgery.

We knew early on we did not want to go through the fear that our mother did of having cancer or the outcome that it could bring, such as in the case of our aunt and mothers cousin who had died from it at such a young age.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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