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Mother & daughter talk about breast cancer gene they share - KOAM TV 7

Joplin mother & daughter talk about breast cancer gene they share

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It's the story of a Joplin mother and daughter who each have a genetic predisposition for breast cancer.

It's been five years now that Elizabeth Foster has been in remission since being diagnosed with hormonal breast cancer.

Like her mother, Doris Greer, Elizabeth had tested positive for the BRCA gene mutation.

Only 4% of women have the BRCA gene mutation, but among those who have it, 85% will get breast cancer.

"If you have this mutation, you have up to an 85% chance of getting breast cancer in your lifetime, up to a 40% chance of getting ovarian cancer, which is an increased risk from the general population," says Wendy Chrisenbery, a supervisor for the Women's Pavilion at Freeman Health System in Joplin.  "Normally, the DNA tells them to grow or to not grow, or to multiply and to not multiply, where if you have this mutation, the part of the DNA that tells your cells to stop growing and not growing, doesn't work right and so you end up with an overgrowth which leads to the cancer."

Elizabeth learned that when it's caught early, cancer can be overcome.

"It's just like if you were to have a predisposition with diabetes or something, you can test early and often and use the technology available," says Elizabeth.  "It's really good.  Some people are scared of that and I understand that, I didn't want to have a positive test, but it's okay and you can take care of it."

On Friday Elizabeth and Doris sat hand-in-hand in a patients room at Freeman Health Center and told us about their experience with breast cancer.

"I had it first then right after I had it, mom had it," Elizabeth says.  "You know exactly what they're going through.  You feel for them and you feel that much more connected.   Hers was a little bit of a different type than mine, so different treatment, but she caught it so early that it was very treatable and she's just doing great."

When Elizabeth was seeking treatment for hormonal breast cancer, she says that is when she tested positive for the BRCA 2 gene.

Elizabeth also found that women in her family had a history of breast cancer.  That is when her mother got tested for the gene.

"We had so many that I got tested and I was positive and then I asked for an MRI because my mammogram didn't show anything and I just didn't feel comfortable," Doris says.

Doris ended up being diagnosed with HER-2 breast cancer.

Officials say that about every other week someone comes in for the BRCA testing.  Every other day someone in our area is diagnosed with breast cancer."

An even higher amount tested positive for the BRCA gene mutation in Doris and Elizabeth's family.

"Over 50% are positive, but some of them are negative," Doris says.

Fortunately, years later, both Doris and Elizabeth are able to sit and call themselves survivors.

The mother and daughter have positive attitudes and hope to inspire others.

"I went ahead and had surgeries and a mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiation, and I'm doing really well now, and I'm almost five years out," says Elizabeth.

Men and women who test positive for the BRCA 1 and 2 gene mutation are more likely to develop breast, prostate, colon, and pancreatic cancer.  Women are also more likely to develop ovarian cancer.

If you or someone in your family has been diagnosed with breast cancer and are curious if your family carries the gene Freeman Women's Center and Cancer Center offer the testing.

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