Women who are in their 20s with a family history of breast cancer are now turning to genetic testing to determine their risk.
October is breast cancer awareness month, a time that focuses on the education and empowerment of the general public on the second most fatal type of cancer, after lung cancer, found in women.
Samantha Sargeant, a sophomore from Manteno studying hospitality and tourism administration, said her mother had breast cancer which inspired her to play an active role in breast cancer awareness.
“It was a very scary and traumatic time in my life,” she said.
Sargeant said she is worried that she may be at risk for breast cancer because of her family history. She said she is an advocate for early detection.
“I make sure to get tested every time I go to my gynecologist,” Sargeant said.
One way doctors detect early signs of breast cancer is through genetic testing, which is the comparing of genes. When doctors test for breast cancer, they compare patients’ genes to either the genes of one of their family members with breast cancer or a genetic mutation, according to the American Cancer Society’s website.
Through genetic testing, doctors found two types of genetic mutations that specifically carry the breast cancer gene. According to the ACS website, the BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 genes are the most common cause of hereditary breast cancer and are often found in women younger than 50.
Donna Crow, a representative from The Memorial Hospital of Carbondale Breast Center, said when someone considers genetic testing it is important for them to focus on all members of both their immediate family and extended family.
“It is a really smart thing to do if you are too young to get a mammogram, and breast cancer is prevalent in your family history,” Crow said.
Crow said it is important for a person to know their own body. She said she encourages women of every age to conduct their own monthly self-examinations.
Caleb Nehring, a representative from the American Cancer Society, said there is still a lot to learn about the hereditary effects of breast cancer, but genetic testing is a way for someone to compare their risk for cancer to their family history.
“Factors that young women should take into consideration besides their family history are their body weight, amount of physical activity, and rate of alcohol consumption,” he said.
Sargeant said her involvement with breast cancer awareness is very important. She is part of the committee that coordinates Strides Against Breast Cancer, an awareness walk hosted by The American Cancer Society.
The walk will take place a 9 a.m. Oct. 22 at Evergreen Park in Carbondale. The Breast Center is also hosting events in honor of breast cancer awareness such as Be My Bra, a contest in which sororities and fraternities decorate a bra and share their personal experiences with breast cancer.