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BRCA testing — Healthwatch 16

Newswatch 16's Courtney Harrison shares the story of a woman from Luzerne County who is hoping to bring awareness to a gene that increases the chances of cancer.

LUZERNE COUNTY, Pa. — Laura Marriggi scrolls through pictures of what her life has looked like over the past seven years, trying to get ahead of a cancer diagnosis, one surgery at a time. Laura had a family history of cancer, so she decided to undergo genetic testing to see if she would face the same battle.

Doctors tested her for the BRCA gene. Her test results showed she had the genetic mutation that would increase her chance of getting cancer.

At 24 years old, Laura had a double mastectomy as her path for preventative care.

"It was scary, very, very scary to know that you have this cancer, a high risk of getting cancer. And so, for me, I wanted to jump on it earlier because I had my son Maxwell at that time. And I did not want Maxwell to see what I saw with my mother," she said.

"Removing both breasts is pretty effective. It takes your risk from 80 percent down to about one to two percent, but there are other things that can be done as well," said Dr. Robin Skrine, the director of the breast surgery program at Geisinger.

Dr. Skrine says many patients choose to get ahead of the disease because of the high chance patients with the BRCA mutation will be diagnosed with cancer.

"You have a lifetime risk of developing breast cancer in one breast about 80 percent, and then you have a 50 percent chance of developing a second breast cancer, and the BRCA mutations also carry risk for other cancers such as ovarian cancer in women and prostate cancer in men."

Laura has since had several other surgeries, including a hysterectomy and several breast reconstructive surgeries, but she hopes sharing her story motivates others to get checked.

"I would absolutely talk to a genetic counselor about the BRCA blood test and engage in genetic testing and multi-testing right up front to get this taken care of sooner than later."

See more Healthwatch 16 stories on YouTube.  

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