Health News

Stacey Sager's life saved with help of genetic test

Friday, October 14, 2011

Five generations of women are in my family. It is so ironic when you consider how cancer would affect so many of us in the decades to come. My great grandmother, Bessie, beat breast cancer and lived till she was 96. My grandmother, Millie struggled through ovarian cancer. My mother, Marilyn, was diagnosed with breast cancer in her 30's and died from it when she was only 44. This year, I turned 44.

I have two beautiful girls. I beat breast cancer 13 years ago and this time, I wasn't taking any chances with ovarian cancer. Like many women, I was scared of genetic testing, all that information, the potential cost and the choices it brings, but for me it was time and I felt like I already knew what the results would be.

"I think it's fair to say that if you have a family history of breast cancer and ovarian cancer, the chances are extraordinarily high that you'll carry 1 or 2 of these BRCA mutations," said Dr. Kenneth Offitt, from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Clinical Genetics.

Dr. Kenneth Offit discovered the most common mutation that causes breast and ovarian cancer back in 1996, earlier this year I went for counseling and a blood test in his office and soon received the news I had put off hearing, for more than a decade. It was no surprise, but I have the BRCA 1 mutation. My sister, Deborah, does not, but we both know how it ripped through our family and how it took our mother.

"She really wasn't well enough to see me off to college or to my graduation, or our graduation, our weddings, to see our children; I just want that so badly".

So now, in my 40's, I had to figure out what to do about it.

"You can't put your head in the sand, you can't put it off," said Dr. Carol Aghajanian, Oncologist.

My doctors at Memorial Sloan-Kettering informed me, that "being BRCA 1" meant a very high chance of getting ovarian cancer, in my lifetime.

"On average, I would say, about 50 percent. That's a high number, that's a very high number," said Dr, Richard Barakat, surgeon.

Dr. Richard Barakat, my surgeon, recommended risk-reducing surgery, and so, back in April, I went into the hospital to have my ovaries and fallopian tubes removed preventively, so I would dramatically reduce my chances of getting cancer again.

"Everything went great, no problems whatsoever," said Dr. Barakat after surgery.

Of course, we still had to wait a week for the official results from pathology, but I was upbeat with my husband.

We would much rather stop worrying about this and worry about the kids.

Doctors say they are now learning more and more about "being BRCA" and that can only lead to good things for my daughters in the future. For instance modifiers on the gene that surprisingly, seems to protect some women.

There are women that have a BRCA mutation, but never get the cancer.

Not to mention the real silver lining that when you test positive for this mutation, doctors know exactly when and where to look for cancer.

If there's a way to play the numbers game to your advantage I feel like, it's not really a choice, you just do it.

In my case that was more valuable than I ever imagined because that pathology news I was waiting on, well it was about to be a real shocker....

Tune in Friday for Part 2 of Stacey Sager's special report.

(Copyright ©2014 WABC-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved.)

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breast cancer, cancer, health news, stacey sager
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