QUAKERTOWN, Pa. - You can thank your parents for your eye color, the shape of your ears, even if you have perfect pitch. The same holds true for certain cancers. About ten percent of all cancers are caused by inherited mutations.
Very few people have the mutated gene, but doctors say as many as 80 percent of women gene carriers will develop breast cancer, and up to 27 percent will get ovarian cancer. Those extremely high numbers are the reason why many women are choosing to have preventative medical procedures.
"I'm not superwoman, I have fears and anxieties about what I'm facing," shared Natalie Blumberg.
In less than 24-hours the Quakertown woman is going under the knife, getting surgery for a disease she doesn't even have.
"I don't doubt my decision," Natalie added. "I know this is something, for me personally, I have to do."
She made the decision two months earlier, after receiving news she never expected.
"Your results came back to show that you carry a mutation in one of the BRCA genes," explained St. Luke's Health Network Certified Genetic Counselor Andrea Smith.
Natalie's family has a history of cancer, and a simple genetic test revealed she inherited a mutation.
"Carrying one of these gene mutations leads to a higher risk to develop certain cancers," Smith said.
The single mother had a very hard, but very important decision to make.
"We recommend that the ovaries and fallopian tubes be removed prophylactically to reduce her risk of developing ovarian cancer," described Gynecological Oncologist Dr. Nicholas Taylor with St. Luke's University Health Network.
It's a move doctors advocate women with the gene mutation undergo before age 40, or after a woman is done having children. Undergoing a total hysterectomy slashes Natalie's chances of developing ovarian cancer by 90 percent, odds she felt comfortable taking a chance on.
"I know realistically there will be times where I may break down, I may get really stressed out, I might cry," shared Natalie. "Just knowing what the other options are and they they're not acceptable is what keeps me moving on."
During the two hour surgery Natalie's uterus, cervix, fallopian tubes and ovaries were removed laparoscopically.
"The entire surgery will be done through those very small incisions," said Dr. Taylor. "Through the incision go these devices called trocars, which are basically sleeves that allow instruments to go in and out of the belly during the surgery."
During the procedure the fallopian tubes and ovaries were examined to make sure there is no hidden cancer.
"In general women feel very relieved that the organ that can cause them cancer and potentially death has been removed," Dr. Taylor described. "So a lot of women actually feel better, they feel that there has been a burden lifted."
After a day and a half in the hospital, Natalie was home and on her way to recovery.
"I was really surprised at the fact that I had absolutely no pain," she smiled. "I didn't even take any pain medicine when I came home."
The total hysterectomy forced Natalie's body into menopause. The symptoms can come on suddenly, but are easily treated by estrogen replacement therapy.
"I joke, you know, that my tank is empty now," laughed Natalie. "But I don't feel it, I don't feel any loss, I don't feel any different than I did before."
Allentown, PA 18102