QUAKERTOWN, Pa. - You could call Natalie Blumberg a PREvivor. The single mother doesn't have a cancer diagnosis, but she knows her chances of getting the disease are huge.
"I knew that I would do whatever I had to to prevent cancer and stay cancer free," shared the Quakertown woman.
After learning about her family history with cancer, Natalie's doctor at St. Luke's Health Network urged her to get tested to find out if she carried a mutation on the BRCA 1 or BRCA 2 genes. The simple test came back positive. Meaning Natalie's risk of developing breast cancer or ovarian cancer sky-rocketed.
Generally, health experts say people should consider being tested when there is a personal or family history of breast cancer, or they have multiple relatives with breast, ovarian or pancreatic cancers, and the diagnoses happened before the age of 50. It's a decision that should include extensive discussions with your doctor.
Natalie met with St. Luke's University Health Network Certified Genetic Counselor Andrea Smith to discuss her test results and options.
"So the main risks that we're concerned about are the risks of breast cancer and the risks of ovarian cancers," explained Smith.
Natalie had two choices, start an intensive surveillance program, or undergo a radical double mastectomy and hysterectomy as a pre-emptive strike against cancer. The surgery can significantly reduce the risk of developing the disease later in life.
"If you have both breasts removed, the risk reduction is 90 percent, so still a small chance that you could develop a breast cancer in the remaining breast tissue," added Gynecological Oncologist Dr. Nicholas Taylor with St. Luke's University Health Network. "The risk for developing a cancer after removal of the fallopian tubes and ovaries is about five percent."
Actress Angelina Jolie underwent a double mastectomy after learning she's BRCA positive. But it's a move that is not for everyone.
"For some people, it can seem a little bit extreme to do things like surgeries without an actual diagnosis," Smith said.
It was a hard decision, but Natalie says with her daughter in mind, it made the most sense. She picked surgery.
"I feel really blessed that I have the choice to do this," she smiled. "I'm going to have a total hysterectomy and I'm also going to have a double mastectomy."
Natalie's test results not only had implications for her, but also her daughter. Any male or female who tests positive for BRCA mutations, have a 50 percent chance of passing the gene to their children.
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