Cancer struck close to Leslie Anderson’s heart.
“I unfortunately lost my mother to breast cancer when I turned 18,” says Leslie Anderson.
And three years ago her sister was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. The two occurrences, years apart, triggered something in Anderson.
“I knew in the back of my mind that we would be excellent candidates to be tested for the BRCA gene. And out of the four sisters I have, three of us came back positive for BRCA 1,” says Anderson.
“BRCA gene is an inherited gene line mutation that puts people at an elevated risk for breast cancer. Basically because the protein their body makes does not repair their DNA properly,” says Dr. Lea Blackwell, surgical breast oncologist on Lee Memorial Health System’s medical staff.
Knowledge is power. In this case, genetic advances are helping women find out if they are pre-disposed to breast and ovarian cancers. Both are linked to this BRCA gene. The information puts them in the driver’s seat.
“You can act on that information and try to prevent breast cancer. And what’s recommended is to have a prophylactic mastectomy. And then they also recommend that you have bilateral ovarian removal,” says Dr. Blackwell.
It wasn’t a tough choice for Anderson. It was the only choice. She had both breasts and both ovaries removed.
“The research that they have done has shown that it reduces our risk from 90% to less than 2%. Having seen my mother go thru that, I just really wanted to take that off the table,” says Anderson.
Only a fraction of women have this mutation- it’s more common in women with specific, aggressive forms of disease.
“Women with triple negative breast cancer, and people under the age of 40 with breast cancer,” says Dr. Blackwell.
Anderson seized the chance her mother never had- and took the weight off her chest.
“Almost like an anchor on your chest, I feel that’s totally gone,” says Anderson.