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Confronting Cancer Series- Day 1

By Catherine Hawley, Reporter, news@wfmz.com
Published On: Jan 28 2014 05:14:52 PM CST
Updated On: Jan 31 2014 07:42:47 PM CST

You likely know someone who has battled breast cancer.

QUAKERTOWN, Pa. -

You likely know someone who has battled breast cancer. Next to skin cancer, it's the most common cancer among women. In 2013, it's estimated that nearly a quarter-of-a-million woman here in the U.S. were diagnosed with the disease.

A growing number of men and woman are now taking their future into their own hands. Doctors say about 10% of patients diagnosed with breast or ovarian cancer were actually genetically predisposed to develop it. 69 News followed a local woman on her journey to become a PREvivor.

"There are days when I am completely confident in my decision, and there's days like today where I'm really scared and I don't know what's gonna, you know, what it's gonna be like," shared Natalie Blumberg.

Eight months ago, the Quakertown woman would never have imagined she would be in a hospital bed at St. Luke's University Health Network about to undergo a life-changing surgery. The single mother's journey started unexpectedly over the summer.

Behind Natalie's smile is a family history that isn't quite as pleasant. Cancer has plagued her relatives for generations. Her great-grandmother died from ovarian cancer, and her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 23.

"I had her in my office, her history was absolutely horrendous," shared St. Luke's University Health Network Gynecological Oncologist Dr. Nicholas Taylor.

He strongly urged Natalie to take a simple test, one that could determine the odds of life or death.

The test is simple and fast. The DNA was sent to a Myriad Genetics lab to determine if Natalie has mutations on the BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 genes.

"It was scary," said Natalie. "I was definitely scared."

Everyone has the BRCA genes, but if they have the harmful mutation, your chances of getting breast cancer and ovarian cancer sky-rocket. Natalie's test came back positive.

"The risk of breast cancer by age 70 is approximately 80 percent, plus or minus, which is incredibly high over the baseline population risk which is about 12 percent," Dr. Taylor explained. "For ovarian cancer, her risk is about 27 percent by age 70, which is still significantly elevated over the one percent baseline population risk."

While that risk is extremely high, very few have to worry. Less then one percent of people have a mutated BRCA gene. Natalie says what she had to do was clear.

"When he explained how high my risk was, it was shocking, but there was no no choice for me," Natalie described. "I knew that I couldn't live with the idea of getting cancer, I had to act."

If you think the Myriad BRCA hereditary test maybe for you, health officials recommend you speak with a doctor first. Most insurance companies cover the testing with no or very little money due out of pocket.