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Local woman encourages others to get tested for "cancer gene"

By Catherine Hawley, Reporter, news@wfmz.com
Published On: Jul 24 2013 04:20:19 PM CDT
Updated On: Jul 25 2013 12:49:22 PM CDT

Local woman with cancer gene speaks out

Natalie Blumberg and her mother Rosemary have always been close. But it turns out this family shares more than just love and laughter.

"There's been cancer everywhere, my great grandmother, grandfather, my mom," the 41-year-old explained. "My mother had a mastectomy when she was 23."

Natalie doesn't have cancer, but her world was turned upside down five days ago. After waiting six weeks, her phone finally rang. It was her doctor on the other end.

"I was really scared, I still am really scared, there's so much I don't know," shared Natalie. "I don't know what I'm going to be facing. I don't know what the pain is going to be like or the hormone therapy."

After learning about her family history, Natalie's doctor at St. Luke's University Health Network encouraged her to get genetic testing to see if she carried mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, which strongly increase the risk of breast and ovarian cancers. The single mother says the results were unexpected.

NATIONAL COMPREHENSIVE CANCER NETWORK

"I have a very high risk of getting breast cancer and ovarian cancer."

Doctors say there's an 87% chance of developing breast cancer by the age of 70, and up to a 44% chance of getting ovarian cancer by 70. Natalie had a choice to make.

"Either you can do the risk reducing surgery, or you can go on an intense surveillance program," said Dr. Nicholas Taylor, Natalie's Gynecological Oncologist.

The results moved her to take preventative action.

"I will be getting a full hysterectomy to avoid ovarian cancer in the next month, and then doing a double mastectomy to avoid breast cancer in the future."

It was an important decision she didn't take lightly. Natalie discussed the options with her doctor, family and friends, and decided the surgeries would be the best thing for her life. It's a journey Natalie plans to document on her blog.

"I'm going to chronicle my counseling visits with the genetic counselor, chronicle my surgeries, recovery time, that way someone can know really what they're going to be in for."

The test for BRCA1 and BRCA 2 costs a couple grand out of pocket, but some insurance companies do cover the test.  It could save you from a very real cancer threat.

"Of all women that come in with breast cancer or ovarian cancer about 10% of them may have inherited a genetic susceptibility from one of their family members," added Dr. Taylor.

While this gene mutations may run in Natalie's family, so does positivity.

"I feel blessed that I can change this, that I have the power to change this," she smiled. "And that I have such an amazing support system."

Medical experts say you should talk with your doctor if you think this genetic test may be for you.

ST. LUKE'S FREE BREAST AND OVARIAN CANCER TEST