It’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month, so here at MiraKind, we’re taking a moment to think about the many ways in which breast cancer impacts our community. Many of you may know that 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime. With those startling statistics, it’s almost a guarantee this disease will touch all of us in some way. Perhaps you have been diagnosed with breast cancer yourself, years ago or within the last few months. Or perhaps you are one of the 7 in 8 who will avoid it, but your mother, best friend, colleague, aunt, or spouse will not.
Whether you have lived through it yourself or know someone who has, almost all (if not all) of us know the physical, spiritual, and emotional toll wrought by a diagnosis, as well as the strength, love, healing, and support that follows. No matter what your experience has been, our goal is to help you leverage the power of genetic information, along with the MiraKind community of support, to help you and your loved ones make the best decisions for your health.
Breast Cancer Survivor
As a breast cancer survivor, you don’t need Breast Cancer Awareness Month to remind you of the journey you’ve been on, but perhaps you use this month as an opportunity to reflect on your experience and think about what can be done collectively to reduce the devastating impact of this disease.
If you have already been treated for breast cancer
You may want to learn whether your cancer is the result of a genetic predisposition for the disease so that you can share this information with your own family members. Did you know that the BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations are actually incredibly rare, affecting only 0.25% of the general population? Therefore, it’s not uncommon for individuals who have been diagnosed with cancer and/or who have a clear family history to test negative for BRCA. Yet, there is clearly a genetic factor at play, and the KRAS-variant may be one of the gene mutations to provide a clue. Understanding your own genetic status may therefore, help provide important information to your loved ones as they navigate their own healthcare journey. Click here to learn how to get tested.
If you have been recently diagnosed with breast cancer
Recent research has shown that the KRAS-variant plays an important role in the body’s response to cancer therapies by affecting an individual’s immune system.
Specifically, studies have found that certain cancer medications are far more effective for KRAS-variant cancer patients, while others do not work well. Research to determine which treatments work best for KRAS-variant patients has been conducted in breast,1 ovarian,2,3 colon,4-17lung,18,19 and head and neck cancer.21-23 To learn more about the research associated with specific types of cancers, please go here.
Family History of Breast Cancer
If you have a family history of cancer, you may want to consider getting tested for the KRAS-variant, an inherited genetic mutation that is up to 20x more common than the BRCA-gene mutation. If you do test positive, you can use this information in many ways, depending on your life stage:
In your 40’s: Determine whether higher-level breast cancer screening, such as breast MRI, is something to consider in addition to annual mammograms. If having a hysterectomy and you are peri-menopausal, discuss the pros and cons of ovary removal with follow-up hormone replacement therapy (HRT) with your physician.
In your 50’s: Determine whether hormone replacement therapy at menopause could be protective against cancer if not otherwise contraindicated. Use the information to determine whether or not ovary removal makes sense for you at menopause.
In your 60’s: Be aware that an increased risk of ovarian cancer increases the importance of ongoing gynecological care. Determine whether continuing on hormone replacement therapy may be beneficial.
In your 70’s: Use your genetic information to ask for continued breast and gynecological screening. Determine whether continuing on hormone replacement therapy may be beneficial.
Whether you are a breast cancer survivor or have lived through the experience with your mother, sister, friend, or colleague, Breast Cancer Awareness Month gives us all the opportunity to pause and think about what we can do to arm ourselves with knowledge so that we are all working together to fight this disease.