Knowing your family health history could save your life

8:18 AM, Sep 30, 2013   |    comments
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WASHINGTON (WUSA9) -- For the last six weeks we've been focusing on the importance of knowing your family health history, especially when it comes to whether you could be at risk for the BRCA gene mutation. Knowing your risk could be the difference between life and death.

Susan Davis and her daughter Jennifer joined us in our studio on Monday morning. Andrea Roane first profiled Susan Davis about 2008- 2009.

When asked where the gene mutation started in her family, Susan replied, "We are trying to trace it back further than what you see on this display. This is my maternal grandmother here who died in 1930 at age 32. She did pass away from breast cancer."

Susan Davis told us that at first it seemed like an unlucky chance that family members were dying of breast cancer, but later she discovered it was something more. "It wasn't 'til I was diagnosed myself in December 2003 with breast cancer and I had the genetic testing. It was kind of a confirmation of what I suspected that there was something more serious going on in our family," said Susan.

She found the mutation in both the females and males in the family.

Susan told us it wasn't very difficult  to have the conversation with her daughter that it was a possibility for her future.

"It wasn't as difficult as it might seem partially because she had been witnessed growing up to people in the family being diagnosed and passing away from ovarian cancer. She was 19 at the time when I tested positive. It was kind of a confirmation of what she already suspected," said Susan.

Jennifer took steps to reduce her risk for breast and ovarian cancer. "I i got tested when I was 19. Some people may think that's a little too young but, as she said, i kind of -- it just reaffirmed my suspicion. We went ahead and started doing breast surveillance at that time, and unfortunately, I had a couple of situations where I had a benign lump found and then the first MRI I had done at age 23, in 2008, they found three more lumps. That had given me enough time, about five years or so, to sort of digest the information of what my options were. And I thought to myself, you know, I want to be here for my children and it was better for me to just go ahead with the surgery."

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