Early warning: Fighting breast cancer - WNEM TV 5

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Early warning: Fighting breast cancer

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(Source: WNEM) (Source: WNEM)

It's a grim statistic - every seven minutes a woman died from breast cancer.

Doctors now know certain genetic makers can indicate who is at risk of getting the disease, but not every patient has those markers.

For Yolanda Ross, breast cancer is a disease that hits close to home

"My poppa had breast cancer and then my grandmother had it and then my aunt had it," Ross said. "That’s on just one side of the family."

Both sides of her family were affected with the same disease for generations. Which is something that inspired Ross to become involved in the Susan G. Komen Foundation.

"I wanted to be a part of the community to help bring awareness," Ross said.

Serving as a director on the Michigan board of the foundation, she is doing just that through education, action and support.

"Wigs, someone to talk to, Gildess Club where they can go and be around other breast cancer patients and survivors," Ross said.

If breast cancer runs in your family you would typically undergo testing known as a hereditary cancer risk assessment. The test identifies patients and families who may be at risk of developing the disease because they carry one of the BRCA genes.

If you don't test positive for the gene you might think you're in the clear, but that's not necessarily the case. You may still be at risk of breast cancer.

That's where the new research comes in. The new genetic test is being offered in Mid-Michigan and it's known as the My Risk Score Test.

"The My Risk Score test is basically based on a couple of things. First the clinical portion of it would be primarily the family history of the patient," said Dr. Ernie Balcueva, oncologist at St. Mary's in Saginaw. "The other would be the genetic markers that we sometimes call them snips, SNP."

That stands for single nucleotide polymorphisms, a scientific way of describing a different gene that can be a telltale sign of your risk. It's different from BRCA 1 and BRCA 2, which until now were the genes doctors paid the most attention to.

"So a patient that we do the My Risk Score has to be negative for BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 and then we combine their family history with this SNP, the snips which are the genetic markers," Balcueva said.

The My Risk Score test gives patients a five-year and lifetime assessment of their unique risk of developing breast cancer. It also gives at risk individuals an accurate and early warning, potentially saving lives.

So what does this mean for individuals like Ross?

"We need to have that test done so that it’s not detected in the later stages," Ross said.

As for Ross, who has never been tested before, she plans to make a change.

"They’re working on a time frame for me to come through and get tested so I am going to get tested for the breast cancer," Ross said.

Ross has some advice for at risk families.

"Know your family history. Get tested. If your insurance will pay for it, do it. If you can do anything that will get help for your family, just learn as much about your family health history as you can," Ross said.

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