Is breast cancer in your genes?

Posted on October 12, 2015

In 2003, Carol Schoner’s mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. You can imagine Carol’s surprise in the wake of her mother’s treatment when, just four years later, she received her own breast cancer diagnosis.

Women with a close (first-degree) relative, such as a mother, sister, or daughter that has been diagnosed with breast cancer have double the average risk of developing it themselves. And those women with two first-degree relatives that have been diagnosed have five times the average risk.

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Hear Carol’s story ›

In approximately one out of every ten breast cancer diagnoses, an inherited gene mutation is responsible for development of the cancer. Having two younger sisters, Carol chose to undergo genetic testing at Erlanger Health System in hopes of easing their minds. “I was so thankful that I didn’t have the gene, since my mom and I had both been diagnosed,” Carol said.

Though a strong family history may make breast cancer more likely for an individual, it does not make it inevitable. Breast cancer is treatable, and there is hope.

Treatment for Carol involved a partial mastectomy, an axillary lymph node dissection (removal of lymph nodes), chemotherapy, and months of radiation. As a first-grade teacher, Carol had to take a year off to get well and regain her strength so she could keep up with the kids. But since then, she has been happy, healthy, and cancer-free.

“I’m thankful. The doctors at Erlanger have been my heroes. The whole experience has brought my husband and I closer together, and made us strong in our faith.”

If you are at high risk for breast cancer, be sure to:

  • Perform a monthly breast self-exam
  • Have a yearly breast exam performed by a doctor, NP, or PA
  • Schedule an annual mammogram

Additionally, there are lifestyle choices that you can make to help lower your risk:

  • Maintain a healthy body weight
  • Exercise regularly
  • Limit alcohol intake
  • Don’t smoke
  • Eat a healthy diet (including 7–9 daily servings of fruits and vegetables)

To contact us or to make an appointment with a specialist, call 423-778-8999.

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