Personalizing your health care

The power of knowing: Genetic testing for breast cancer

The power of knowing: Genetic testing for breast cancer

Growing up, Heather Gauthier realized that every woman in her family – her grandmother, mother and aunts – had been affected by cancer. Heather was only 20 years old when her mother passed away from ovarian cancer at the age of 48.

“I’ve always been terrified of getting cancer,” says Heather, who gave birth to her second child less than a year ago. “I grew up without a mother; I couldn’t imagine my two daughters having to go through the same thing.”

Thinking of her age and family history, Heather looked to LifeLabs for answers. Equipped with the necessary forms from her health care provider, Heather visited a patient service centre in Burlington, Ontario, to receive a genetic test that assesses mutations in the BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 genes (BRCA 1 / 2) – the most common mutations that cause inherited breast cancer.

Her results showed that she was positive, with an up to 87% risk for developing breast cancer over her lifetime in addition to increased risks for ovarian, pancreatic and melanoma cancers. After consultation with her genetic counselor at LifeLabs and her gynecologist, Heather made the decision to have a complete hysterectomy. After she recovered from that surgery, Heather scheduled a consultation for a prophylactic double mastectomy, which will significantly reduce her chance of developing breast cancer.

“Heather has a very striking family history and was motivated to learn more,” says Kate Gardiner, Heather’s genetic counselor at LifeLabs. “She predicted right from the start that she was going to be positive, but carefully weighed the pros and cons of genetic testing. She’s an inspirational example of someone determined to be their own advocate.”
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