For one woman in Michigan, hearing wedding bells was the first step in a long journey of developments and milestones in her life. Dealing with the news that she had inherited her mother’s BRCA2 gene turned out to be just as significant an event.
Barb Jensen of Grand Forks found out that her grandmother, who had died of ovarian cancer, had carried a gene that exponentially increases one’s risk of developing ovarian and breast cancer. This moment in her life was pivotal and would set a course towards a drastic change that would alter her life and body forever.
When her mother’s oncologist recommended that Barb Jensen and her sisters be tested for the gene immediately, Barb was reluctant because she almost expected it. Besides that, she knew that if she did have the BRCA2 gene, her mother would have felt extremely guilty for “giving it to her”.
“I waited… I had a feeling I had it,” Barb said.
When Angelina Jolie announced that she had undergone a preventative double mastectomy due to her inheritance of the BRCA2 gene, Jensen was inspired. She told her husband, “She’s probably going to save a lot of lives. Women will get that test.”
When Jensen finally decided to go to her oncologist for genetic counseling, it was brought to her oncologist’s attention that she always had a history of fibrocystic breasts. Fibrocystic breasts are dense and heavy and it is usually very difficult to self examine fibrocystic breasts for lumps.
When Jensen found out that she did in fact have the BRCA2 gene, she says she wasn’t terribly surprised. She learned that based on her family history, her chance for breast cancer was about 57%, but with the BRCA2 gene, her chance rose to 94%.
That is a 37% increase.
Her doctor also informed her that with the BRCA2 gene, her risk of ovarian cancer rose from 6% to 65%. If she were to undergo a preventative double mastectomy procedure, her chances of developing breast cancer would fall to around 4% to 6% and her chances of ovarian cancer would drop to 2% to 4%.
She knew what she had to do, but she was not prepared for the rollercoaster ride that would end up saving her life.
Her mastectomy and reconstructive surgery were both done in the same 8-hour period of time and resulted in an infection. Also, having her ovaries removed, she was abruptly thrust into menopause.
She also struggled deeply with self-image problems after the mastectomy, and her reconstructive surgeries were strenuous as they resulted in numerous infections. She says that she grieved the loss of her breasts but the difficult process was worth it as she sees “everything in a different perspective now.”
She encourages women, who may be facing what she has, to visit www.facingourrisk.org (Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered), where women share information, encouragement, and support.
For women who are faced with the same path, there is hope. For breast cancer patients, fat and stem cell storage can be a source of adipose tissue along with stem cells that can be instrumental in natural breast reconstruction surgery as well as hold the potential for stem cell based cancer treatments at some point in the future.
The incidence of complications in the breasts after post-mastectomy breast reconstruction is far less with autologous fat transfer (about 18% necrosis rate at 12 months) versus complications after breast reconstruction with breast implants (about 27%).
Get More Information Today
Contact American CryoStem today for information about fat and stem cell storage as bioinsurance for the future as well as to find an enrolled provider near you.
Women with questions about the BRCA genes, preventative mastectomy, and natural breast reconstruction also read this post by Dr. Mel Bircoll, the inventor of fat grafting and a proponent of stem cell storage and educating women on this option for reducing breast cancer risk.
Blog post written by John DiFolco.