The Gene Girls

Carlye From, 23, and her sister Courtney, 27, don’t have breast cancer yet. But they have tested positive for the BRCA 1 gene which passes breast cancer from generation to generation.

For Carlye, a Meredith College student, this means that she has an 86 percent chance of developing the disease. Additionally, the breasts and ovaries are linked genetically, so her chances of developing ovarian cancer are increased.

In a phone interview, Carlye said to reduce her risk she is exercising more and eating healthier than she used to. She said that she takes better care of her body than most people think is necessary for her age group.

Carlye is under careful observation by doctors at UNC Hospitals, who constantly screen her with mammograms and MRIs. She had another mammogram just last week and everything checked out fine. “It is such a relief every time I leave a check-up knowing that for now I am OK,” Carlye said. “It is something I will deal with if and when the time comes, but for now it is not something I think about everyday.”

Carlye’s mom, Rivka was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer in 2004. After undergoing a mastectomy and oophorectomy, Rivka is now cancer free. But as Rivka’s mother died of ovarian cancer, doctors suggested genetic testing for rest of the family. Carlye’s uncle has also tested positive for the mutation, but since men have less breast tissue than women, his risk of developing breast cancer is not as high as the female members of his family.

It was surprising to Carlye that her family has BRCA 1 as opposed to BRCA 2, which is more common for Ashkenazi Jews like her family. The self proclaimed Gene Girls speak nationally about genetic testing at synagogues, health care centers and cancer organizations. Look for them to speak at 6:30 p.m. on Monday March 3 at the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Pharmacy.

The Gene Girls are in the process of creating a Web site and are writing a book to tell their story. According to Carlye, their goal is to empower people and educate others about genetic testing. The book will give perspectives from each age group, which is what they speak about.

“Don’t wait to get stage 4 cancer when you can get tested and be on top of your health,” advises Carlye. “The earlier cancer is detected, the more likely treatment will be successful. Medicine has gotten so advanced that receiving a diagnoses is no longer a death sentence. Of course it is still scary, but it is scarier not to know.”

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5 Responses to “The Gene Girls”

  1.   The Gene Girls by cancer.MEDtrials.info Says:

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  4. breast cancer talk » Blog Archive » The Gene Girls Says:

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  5. JoAnne Acosta Says:

    I was diagnosed in Jan. of 07 with Stage IIIc Ovarian Cancer. My doctor recommended genetic testing since I was relatively young to get OVCA. The test showed I had BOTH BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 (I’m not Jewish). My mom and sisters were both tested and my mom and one of my sisters tested positive for BRCA 1. Both my mom and sister are being very vigilant about their screening and considering their options (prophalactic masectomy and/or oophorectomy. I’ve only come across 1 other person with both. I wish I knew of more and would know more about what it means to have both (if anything). By the way, I am almost 6 months cancer free after 9 treatments of chemo/IP.

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