Genetic Testing: How it Helped Local Woman Catch Ovarian Cancer

Debbie Heile went in for a routine breast exam when her medical team discovered a lump in her breast. The real shock, however, came later.

Debbie Learns her Cancer Risk Thanks to Genetic Testing 

When her care team discovered the lump, they sent her to see a breast surgeon. Initially, Debbie planned to have only a lump removal, but her breast surgeon – after reviewing Debbie’s family history – suggested genetic testing. Debbie’s genetic testing results came back positive for the most common gene mutations associated with breast and ovarian cancer.

Suddenly, the recommendation went from simply having a lumpectomy to having both her breasts and ovaries removed through a mastectomy and oophorectomy.

Surgery Reveals Something Debbie Didn't Expect

But, Debbie’s happy she did. During surgery, her surgeon discovered she had ovarian cancer in both of her ovaries. “So at that time, I was dealing with breast cancer and ovarian cancer, at the same time,” she explains.

Since being diagnosed with breast cancer, Debbie’s cancer journey has come full circle. She realizes knowledge is power when it comes to cancer – and wants others to know they have options.

"Pre-vivors": What are They?

"Pre-vivors," or those who are at higher risk for cancers but don't yet have a diagnosis of cancer, have more options for prevention than ever before, says Karen Huelsman MS, LGC, certified genetic counselor at the TriHealth Cancer Institute. “For example, with the breast, you can start screening by age 25 with MRIs. Straddled with mammography in the 30s, you might consider prophylactic surgery, or even chemoprevention, with a drug like tamoxifen, which cut the risk by half (lifetime risk of breast cancer)."

Debbie considers herself lucky. “I’m fine. I’m cancer-free at this point,” she says. “It might take you time to decide what you need to do so the earlier you know, if you’re at risk, the better.”

Tags Cancer