week 40: this week i'm gonna... promote early breast cancer detection
Almost all of us know someone who has been touched by breast cancer -- about 1 in 8 American women will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime*. Most women who are diagnosed have no family history of the disease, but about 5-10% of breast cancers can be linked to gene mutations inherited from one’s mother or father. Women with strong family histories of disease and/or mutations of the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene live with the harsh and probable reality of developing cancer. Women with mutations of the BRCA1 gene have a 55-65% lifetime risk of developing breast cancer; for women with a BRCA2 mutation, the risk is 45%.
Since she was 18 years old, Kate Barasz knew she had inherited the BRCA1 mutation. Her grandmother had been diagnosed with breast cancer at age 35, her mother at age 31. Her great-grandmother passed away from ovarian cancer at age 40. In fact, every woman in Kate's family had had cancer, except a select few that underwent prophylactic surgery. The odds were not in her favor.
Kate approached her situation with determination and resolve - right then, when presented with her blood test results at age 18, she decided she would remove her breasts by age 30 and her ovaries by age 35.
Flash forward 10 years later and Kate was happily married with a young son. But it was time; her 30th birthday was approaching, and the risk of letting her breasts remain and develop cancer was getting too high. In preparation for her double mastectomy, Kate discovered Bright Pink and their PinkPal program. She was introduced to a woman who had already undergone prophylactic surgery and was able to share firsthand knowledge of what was to come. Kate got questions answered, advice on recovery, and even got to see what reconstructed breasts look like in real life (disclaimer: this is not guaranteed for all PinkPal meetings!). She was ready.
* All cancer statistics are sourced from BreastCancer.org.
Bright Pink is the only national non-profit organization focused on prevention and early detection of breast and ovarian cancer in young women. Their aim is to reach the 52 million young women in the United States between the ages of 18 and 45 with their innovative, life-saving breast and ovarian health programs, thereby empowering this and future generations of women to live healthier, happier, and longer lives.
Bright Pink's programs include:
- Brighten Up® Educational Workshops - educates and inspires young women to be proactive advocates for their health
- The Women’s Health Provider Education Initiative - educates the next generation of women’s healthcare providers on how best to stratify and manage breast and ovarian cancer risk among their patients
- Outreach Groups - provides group support forums for high-risk women around the country
- PinkPal® - matches women who have a strong family history of breast and ovarian cancer (or a genetic predisposition for these cancers) with another woman who has had similar experiences for mentoring and personal support
Please watch the video below to learn more about Bright Pink from the Founder, Lindsay Avner.
Two years after her breast surgery, Kate welcomed her second child - a baby girl. And a year after that, she followed through on her plan to remove her ovaries. Now, fully recovered and healthy, she has no regrets. Kate is able to live her life free from the burden of BRCA1, free from the scary percentages that were given to her at age 18, and free to enjoy her beautiful family.
Notes for this week:
- Kate happens to be an excellent writer and detailed her story for Salon.com. You can read it here.
- October is Breast Cancer Awareness month! Be on the lookout for pink ribbons.
- Our collective givetwig donation will educate over 200 women about breast and ovarian cancer prevention and early detection.
- For further information regarding Bright Pink, please check out their website.
this week i'm gonna donate to Bright Pink.