Get the Latest Information on Breast Cancer at the Lynn Sage Breast Cancer Town Hall

Northwestern Medicine
Cancer Care/Oncology October 04, 2013

It was during Caryn Blumenfeld’s normal morning routine that she found a lump on one of her breasts. She was in the bathroom getting ready for work and it was the first time she had noticed it, but Blumenfeld didn’t think it seemed normal and called her doctor right away. Tests revealed that the lump Blumenfeld had noticed was in fact breast cancer.

Blumenfeld knew that she didn’t have a family history of breast cancer on her mother’s side of the family but she didn’t know about her father’s side, so her doctor recommended that she look into genetic testing. Subsequent genetic testing revealed that Blumenfeld carried the BRCA1 mutation, which dramatically increased the likelihood of another breast cancer diagnosis in the future, as well as her risk of ovarian cancer. According to the National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health, 55 to 65 percent of women who inherit a harmful a BRCA1 mutation develop breast cancer by the age of 70, and 39 percent of women with the mutation develop ovarian cancer by the age of 70. Blumenfeld was only in her early 30s.

After consulting with her Northwestern treatment team, she chose to have both a bilateral mastectomy as well as prophylactic surgery to remove her ovaries. “My cancer had grown really quickly and was very aggressive,” said Blumenfeld of her decision. “I didn’t want to go through having it happen again.”

“Someone who has been diagnosed with breast cancer once has approximately a 12 percent chance of developing a brand-new breast cancer, but if that same person has a BRCA mutation, their chances elevate to about 50-60 percent,” said Sarah Jackson, MS, CGC, a genetic counselor at the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University. “People should research and stay up-to-date on their family’s medical history, and regularly contact their cancer genetics provider to determine if they have been indicated for new or addition genetic testing as cancer research and technology continues to progress.”

It has been about two years since her initial surgeries and Blumenfeld is feeling healthy and positive about the future. “I have no doubt I made the right choices after understanding the risks and options I had,” she said.

About 5-10 percent of breast cancer cases are thought to be hereditary, but there are many other factors and choices that can influence your risk. Remember that being identified as high-risk doesn’t mean you’ll get cancer. All it means is that your likelihood of developing breast cancer is several times higher than that of an average-risk woman.

If you have questions about breast cancer, Sunday, October 6, 2013 is a great time to ask them. The Lynn Sage Breast Cancer Town Hall, which is free and open to the public, is a unique opportunity to have your questions answered by the experts at Northwestern. Visit exhibits to discover breast cancer resources in your community and learn about local and national organizations providing support. The event will be moderated by William J. Gradishar, MD, director of the Lurie Cancer Center’s Maggie Daley Center for Women's Cancer Care at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, and feature a panel of experts including:

  • Emily Berry, MD - Managing Menopausal Symptoms
  • Mary Jo Graden, LCSW - Managing Anxiety During and After Treatment
  • Sarah Jackson, MS, CGC - Understanding Genetics and Breast Cancer
  • Sarika Jain, MD - New Breast Cancer Therapies
  • Jacqueline Jeruss, MD, PhD - What's New in the Operating Room

Register online or call 312.695.1304. Walk-ins Welcome
Registration/Exhibits open: 12:00 p.m.
Program: 1:00 p.m. - 3:30 p.m.
Arthur Rubloff Building
Thorne Auditorium
375 East Chicago Avenue, Chicago, Illinois 60611

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