Genetic Testing Helps Identify Cancer Risk

By Heather Hubbs, KCRG-TV9 TV-9

This year an estimated 40,000 women will die from breast cancer according to the American Cancer Society. There are things you can do to lower your risk, but that starts by knowing your risk. That’s where genetic testing comes into play. This is not a new practice, it’s been around for more than 15 years but there are still a lot of people out there who don’t know much about it. There’s an Eastern Iowa woman who is working to raise awareness about how genetic testing can save lives.

Becky Iliff has never been diagnosed with breast cancer. Still, she chose to have both her breasts removed.

”I’ve always thought if there was some way to prevent cancer you should,” said Iliff.

Becky, who was adopted at birth discovered a few years ago her biological mother died of ovarian cancer, after discovering a large mass in her own abdomen Becky’s doctor encouraged her to have genetic testing done. Becky found out she had a mutation in her BRCA1 gene, making her more likely to get cancer.

“When you see the percentages ... To me it wasn’t even a second thought. With almost a 90 percent chance in my lifetime, close to 50 percent for ovarian cancer, it didn’t seem like much of a decision to get a mastectomy,” said Iliff.

While genetic testing was the right choice for Becky Iliff, Kate Durda, a Certified Genetics Counselor at the Hall-Perrine Cancer Center says not everyone needs it.

“If we see somebody who has family history of cancer that they’ve had relatives diagnosed under the age of 50 with cancer that’s the kind of patient we’d be interested in and evaluating to see if it’s right for them,” said Durda.

And if someone is shown to be high risk, doctors can take preventive measures.

”We don’t want a woman to wait till 40 or 50 for her first mammogram. We start screening for breast cancer, using breast MRI’s and/or mammogram starting at age 25 in these families because we see cancer starting at a much younger age,” said Durda.

To help raise awareness about genetic testing Becky is bringing the independent film “ Decoding Annie Parker” to the Coral Ridge movie theater. It’s about the doctor who discovered the genetic link to cancer and a cancer patient who pushed her doctors to look at her family history when they believed there was no tie.

”There are a lot of women struggling with BRCA diagnosis and cancer diagnosis. I think it’s important people know these struggles and understand what they’re going through,” said Iliff.

Decoding Annie Parker is showing at the Coral Ridge movie theater on May 28th at 7:30 p.m.

Tickets can be reserved online

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