A new study says women with the BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 genes can cut their risk of breast cancer and ovarian cancer by at least 80% if they get their ovaries removed by age 35.
A Pooler woman says she chose to do just that after she discovered she had breast cancer at age 41. Elizabeth Peek says it was how she found out that she had cancer that saved her life.
Peek says she would always walk a few times a week, but she did not consider herself health conscious. She says after putting off checkups at age 41, she headed to see local doctor Dr. Edward Richards with the Lewis Cancer Pavilion at St. Joseph's/ Candler.
"I had my mammogram, and it came back positive for something suspicious. So I had a biopsy, and that came back positive for cancer cells. I just remember my stomach just dropped. The word cancer is so scary, " says Peek.
Further genetic testing then revealed Peek was a carrier of the BRCA 2 gene.
"That's what led us to have the full mastectomy instead of just one side, and when they found cancer in the other side that was kind of the wake up call for me to realize that the cancer was there and I didn't even know it twice now," adds Peek.
Then came another big decision. Dr. Richards advised Peel to have her ovaries removed to reduce her chances of developing ovarian cancer.
"For me that was the easiest part of the decision. I have 3 teenagers. I had no intention of having more children," says Peek.
Through every chapter of this process Peek says hope sustained her.
Now 42, Peek encourages her students and women to learn from her, and reminds everyone to not neglect their health.
"The mammograms, the yearly checks things like that. I know I had neglected it in the past. I'm thankful I didn't neglect it any further because if I had waited another year my situation could have been a whole lot different," adds Peek.
Peek says she now does her part to raise awareness, and her sister recently tested negative for the BRCA gene. Next, her daughters will be tested, knowing they have a family history.
To learn more about genetic counseling you can contact Dr. Jacob South at the Lewis Cancer Pavilion at (912) 819-5749.
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