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Mother, daughter test positive for breast cancer gene

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) — Kaity Kasper and her mother Debbie are cancer survivors.

Debbie Kasper beat breast cancer 30 years ago.  But recently she had more questions about her diagnosis and wanted to know why, with no family history, she developed the disease. Was it genetics?

She opted for testing to be sure. But Kaity was against the idea.

“I didn’t know if I really wanted that information that we had had this gene mutation in the family, ” Kaity said.

Sure enough, her mother tested positive for the BRACA gene that significantly increases your risk for breast cancer.  Patients have as high as an 85% risk of getting the disease before they turn 70 years old.

Kaity says she was frustrated and angry when she learned her mother’s results. Frustrated because she says she already knew she was at high risk for the disease from radiation treatment for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in her twenties.

Once she told her doctor her mother’s tests results, he advised Kaity to get tested as well.  She also tested positive.

“And that’s when you have to start thinking about what am I going to do based on this chance that I have, ” Kaity said.

Kaity’s mother chose to have a double mastectomy and hysterectomy which reduced her risk for reoccurrence by more than half.  Kaity faced the same choice, but she was just 32-years-old, single and wanted to have children someday.

“For me, I don’t think I want to take such radical measures,” Kaity said. “I feel I would be doing something so drastic to my body when it might not be necessary.”

Dr. Jim Pellicane with the Virginia Breast Center says the decision to have surgery is a very personal one.  He says women no longer have to take such drastic steps if they’re not ready.

“Patients who are BRACA positive and know they are BRACA positive have a whole new world of screening options available to them,” says Dr. Pellicane.  That includes an annual MRI or ultrasound.   He also says patients can be seen in their doctor’s office more often and medications called estrogen blockers can help.

Kaity says for that reason, she’s at peace with her decision.

“It gives me extra peace of mind since I know that I have the mutation and I can be followed by more doctors and there are more monitoring options that are available for me, ” she said.

While surgery provides the maximum risk reduction, Dr. Pellicane says there are other ways a woman can lower her chances for breast cancer including exercise, diet, and maintaining a healthy body weight.

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