Emily and Caroline’s Story
Emily lives in Washington, DC, where she works full time and enjoys life downtown—good food, live music, and being a short distance from her family outside the city. When Emily was fresh out of college, her mom was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Caroline, a stay-at-home mom living in Northern Virginia, is Emily’s older sister. She was engaged and planning her wedding when their mom was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012. They found out their mom had a BRCA-2 gene mutation, raising her risk for breast and ovarian cancers. It was possible that Caroline and Emily could inherit the BRCA-2 gene mutation from her.
“I didn’t want to be so anxious, so that’s why I decided to go that route.”
Caroline wanted to learn about her own risk. She saw a genetic counselor and decided to get tested to determine if she had inherited the BRCA-2 gene mutation from her mom. Testing found the gene. After Caroline began breast cancer screening with mammograms and MRIs, her doctor found something abnormal. She was told she needed a surgical biopsy. At that point, she decided that if she was going to need surgery, “let’s just do it”—she had a bilateral prophylactic mastectomy (removing both breasts to prevent cancer) and breast reconstruction surgery.
“I didn’t feel settled enough to really take that on.”
Emily also chose to learn about her risk and relied on Caroline for emotional support, since she had already gone through the process. Emily found out she had the BRCA-2 gene mutation too, but the sisters’ paths diverged from there. “Being single and young and not really knowing what my future held,” she decided that for the time being, she wanted to continue with frequent checkups and screening.
Two sisters on separate paths, but there for each other every step of the way.
Every woman reacts differently to finding out she has a high chance of developing breast cancer, based on family history and genetic testing. Managing your breast cancer risk is not a one-size-fits-all thing. After talking with your health care providers, consider your various courses of action. Caroline and Emily chose different paths, but their support for each other and their decisions remained unwavering. Women at risk for breast cancer can continue to live healthy lives and be proactive about managing their risks in different ways. If your family has a history of breast or ovarian cancer, talk to your health care provider to see if referral for genetic counseling and testing is something you should consider.