Knowledge is power in breast cancer prevention

October 15, 2015 | by Edward-Elmhurst Health

The phrase “like mother, like daughter” can mean good things if you are talking about cooking skills, sense of humor or math smarts. But no daughter wants to follow in her mother’s footsteps when it comes to breast cancer.

Jennifer Trevino decided to get tested after her mother, Ethel Lores, had surgery for breast cancer. Trevino, a working mother of two, had her first baseline mammogram at 35, since breast cancer affected her mom as well as her mom’s four sisters.

“I have a 40 percent lifetime risk of developing breast cancer due to my family history. I would rather be safe than sorry,” Trevino said.

Keeping a close eye

Because of her strong family history, Trevino was a candidate for the BRCA gene blood test. A woman’s risk of developing breast and/or ovarian cancer increases if she inherits a harmful mutation in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene. Trevino’s results came back negative. Had they come back positive, Trevino was ready to follow up.

She continues to see Christine Gresik, M.D., an oncologist who manages the Elmhurst Hospital High-Risk Breast Clinic. She also alternates between a mammogram and breast MRI testing to keep a close eye on her situation.

“Our High-Risk Breast Clinic emphasizes that screening for breast cancer is not a one-size-fits-all situation,” said Dr. Gresik. “Women need individual assessments so we can design a customized plan based on her individual risk factors.”

Control what you can

Dr. Gresik adds that up to one-third of all breast cancers are now considered preventable through various risk-reduction strategies, including simple diet and exercise regimens.

Trevino says she will tell her daughter the things she learned about breast cancer and prevention when she is older.

“I hope that in 15 or 20 years there is even more that they can do with medication and technology,” she said.

Lores and Trevino both agree that women should see their doctor for annual check-ups and follow the mammography guidelines.

“You need to control what you can,” said Lores, who maintained a positive attitude throughout her chemotherapy and radiation treatment, and has now become a mentor to her friends with breast cancer. “Breast cancer changes your life. I live life to the fullest, although the chance of recurrence is always in the back of my mind.”

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