, September 29, 2017 | More Post by

Freddi N. is the teenage daughter of a previous H4TG blog contributor; she shared this essay with us since it related to our current Pink Link Connect blog contest asking survivors to share their thoughts on genes and breast cancer.

“You are too young to worry about this.” When my physicians brush off my fears about cancer and my risk, I can’t help but feel like a prisoner on death row, anticipating the worst. Knowing too much about cancer can be good and it can be bad. Knowing what the future has in store for you can shape your present as well. Inheriting a genetic mutation that puts you at an 85% potential likelihood of developing breast or ovarian cancer is daunting. My mother and my maternal grandmother both tested positive for the BRCA2 gene mutation, which unfortunately indicates that I have a 50% likelihood of inheriting the gene mutation as well.

Men and women with this mutation tend to develop cancer at an early stage in life like the members of my family.  Knowing that I have a 50% chance of inheriting the BRCA mutation, I will educate myself on the depths of this mutation, explore my family’s genetic inheritance and investigate ways in which I can decrease my risk factors.

In my quest to unearth as much information as I possibly could about BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations, I have found that, if in fact I do have the mutation, I have an 85% chance of developing breast or ovarian cancer at an early age.  While the general population tends to have only a 25% chance of breast and a 17% chance of ovarian cancers, my genetic makeup raises my odds quite considerably.

In fact, BRCA mutations are found most amongst members of my heritage, Ashkenazi Jews. Everyone possesses the BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene but a woman’s risk of developing breast and/or ovarian cancer is greatly increased if she inherits a deleterious mutation in the BRCA1 gene or the BRCA2 gene. BRCA1 and BRCA2 are human genes that produce tumor suppressor proteins. These proteins help repair damaged DNA and, therefore, play a role in ensuring the stability of the cell’s genetic material.  If you have a mutation, you lack the proteins essential for cellular reparation. In my case, since I am too young to be tested, when I am of age, I plan to meet with a genetic counselor.

My maternal grandmother was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer at age 66. It was metastatic and her life expectancy was 18 months. During that time, she was tested for BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations because her mother and family history suggested that there was a causal link to these mutations. Eight months after her death, at the age of 42, my mother was diagnosed with stage 3C breast cancer. She was asked about her family history of cancer and quickly remembered that her mother was tested for BRCA and was positive. She was told that she had a 50% chance of also inheriting the mutation. Her mutation was BRCA2.

In order to lower her risk of recurrence, my mother underwent a radical bilateral mastectomy with Tram Flap reconstruction, six months of chemotherapy, radiation and a total hysterectomy, lowering her risk to only 15% reoccurrence. In addition to a family history of breast cancer that automatically increases my risk, my family’s genetic background must also be taken into account when assessing my future actions or inactions. My paternal grandmother had colon cancer and both my grandfathers had advanced prostate cancer. These cancers are all linked to the BRCA mutation putting me at a greater risk…85 plus percent.

Studies have shown that no risk reduction strategies exist for children and therefore testing for the BRCA mutation may not happen until I am 18. This was a hard pill to swallow for my parents who resisted this ideology and sought research programs by major universities that are conducting studies on early risk reduction strategies for children of BRCA positive parents.

When I turned 16, my parents informed me that although we were not actually going to test to see if I had the BRCA mutation, we were going to be taking precautions for both my brother and I to reduce risk. A healthy diet and plenty of exercise can be the first line of defense against cancer and practically every disease. My dad is a certified nutritionist and he uses his expertise to guide our family. My mother is living proof that a good outlook and a healthy lifestyle can galvanize and propel you to live life to the fullest. I will not let the fear of the unknown paralyze me and will instead use all the tools available to ensure that cancer does not stand a chance in my body.

Throughout my life I have witnessed cancer take lives. On the other hand, I have seen the bravery and courageousness of my mother’s battle. I know now that I have a greater risk of getting cancer due to my inherited genetic makeup. This could serve me poorly and leave me depressed and fated or ultimately bring me closer to appreciating consciousness, spirit, life, healing and help me to become very clear about what I want from my life. If I am one of the “85 percent” I have already won the battle.

-Freddie N.

, November 01, 2013 | More Post by

As we close out Breast Cancer Awareness Month at Beyond Boobs!, we’d like to take a moment to remind you that breast cancer doesn’t care what month it is, nor is it partial to pink.

Beyond Boobs! exists to help the wives, mothers, and daughters who have breast cancer now. That’s why we preceded Breast Cancer Awareness Month with a post called, “3 Things Young Women Need to Know About Breast Cancer.”  That’s why our Good Health Fairy asked you to get Beyond Breast Cancer Awareness to Breast Health Action.  And that’s why when October ends, Beyond Boobs! carries on.

The Pink Ribbon and PinkwashingMB - headshot

October, known for foliage, football, and “fiends,” now has become synonymous with the pink ribbon. While the pink ribbon campaign has been effective in focusing public attention on the serious topic of breast cancer, it has also spawned a pink industry profiting from the use of the ribbon with promises to benefit various breast cancer charities or often just the vague “breast cancer research.”

The widespread placement of ribbons on products ranging from chia pet kits, dog costumes (really!), to rubber duckies has, in some cases, made people immune to the original, well-intentioned objective of the campaign. Even more serious is the emergence of the “pinkwasher.” This is a company or organization that claims to care about breast cancer by promoting a pink ribbon product, but at the same time produces, manufactures and/or sells products that are linked to the disease. To learn more about pinkwashing, click here: Think Before You Pink.

Take Breast Health Action NOW!

At Beyond Boobs!, we have been promoting breast health ACTION from our very beginnings, six years ago. Recognizing that “breast cancer awareness” was very passive (who isn’t aware of breast cancer?), we were one of the first organizations to focus on breast health and changing behaviors, and other organizations have followed our lead. And unlike many other non-profits, we aren’t focused on a future cure, we are helping women with breast cancer NOW.

As we work with young women diagnosed with breast cancer, we are helping to restore them to health – mind, body, and spirit – educating them about reducing their risk of recurrence, and encouraging healthy habits. We also educate all women about managing their own risk of breast cancer, advocating for their health, and urging a lifestyle of wellness.

So as you wade through the sea of pink ribbons this fall, we hope you will pause and do the following:

  • Women, ask yourselves, “Have I checked my breasts lately? Do I need to schedule my annual mammogram?” And men, please urge the women you love to take these actions. Your encouragement is often enough to compel us to do what many of us fear.
  • As you use the pink ribbon to show your support (and we wholeheartedly thank you!) to the over 220,000 women who will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year and the almost three million breast cancer survivors, we encourage you to learn who benefits from your charitable purchase and what percentage of your money benefits is donated.
  • Remember the many lives that have been lost to breast cancer and embrace the women who are fighting it now with grace and courage.

October is over, but we’ll continue to spread the word…we hope you’ll join us.

 

Warm hugs, Mary Beth

, October 06, 2013 | More Post by

Hello Breast Cancer Awareness Month! Wait! There’s something wrong here. We at Beyond Boobs! want you to focus on your breast health, not cancer, and not just this October, but every month. And though awareness is good, it won’t help with early detection if there is a problem UNLESS you DO what you need to “check them out” regularly.

So, get to really KNOW your breasts:

  • admire them (and you-we are ALL beautiful!) in the mirror as, say, you brush your teeth – look for any changesGHF
  • do a monthly self-exam where you feel them too
  • beginning at age 20, get regular clinical breast exam at least every 3 years
  • if 40 or over or at high risk (check with your doctor), get an annual mammogram (in your birthday month is an easy way to remember this and is a gift to yourself)

So find an “accountability friend” to help you make all this a priority (you’ll be helping her too) and go out to lunch or shopping (my favorite!) to reward yourselves for Taking Charge of your breast health!

With healthy wishes this and every month,

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, September 24, 2013 | More Post by

 

Breast cancer is an older woman’s disease, right? WRONG! Breast cancer can strike anyone, male or female, young or old, family history of breast cancer or not. It’s definitely less common in younger women, but about five percent of new breast cancer diagnoses involve women under age 40.

We’re not telling you this to scare you. We’re telling you because we want to empower you to take charge of your breast health!

3 Things Every Young Woman Should Take to Heart

  • Get familiar with your breasts. Don’t be shy about touching them. That way you’ll be aware of changes early on. If you find a lump, don’t panic – most turn out to be noncancerous, but it’s worth finding out, don’t you think?
  • Listen to your body and to your intuition. Don’t let anyone tell you you’re too young to have breast cancer. If you have concerns, see your doctor. Request an examination and additional screening that may validate or disprove your concern.
  • Don’t let fear of breast cancer keep you from taking the steps necessary to monitor your breast health. Ignoring the possibility of breast cancer won’t prevent you from getting it, but it may prevent you from catching it in its earliest stages when the survival rate is highest.

What we know now from experience, we want you to know ahead of time. Please take it to heart. It could save your life.

You’ve got a lot of people counting on you and so much yet to experience. We are living proof that breast cancer doesn’t have to be a death sentence; it may even result in a new appreciation and enthusiasm for life.

For more information on managing breast cancer risk, read our: Things We Wish We Had Known. And if you’re confused about whether or not you should have a mammogram, you’re not alone. Beyond Boobs! weighed on the latest research: Younger Women Need Mammograms, says new study.

Our Boobers (people who have or have had breast cancer) and Boostiers (volunteers and supporters) are always up to something. Sign up for our newsletter and we’ll keep you up-to-date on what they – and we – are up to.

If you’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer, what do you know now that you wish you’d known before? Leave a comment and let us know.