Mom and daughter fight breast cancer at same time

By Britney Glaser - bio | email

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - Nearly ten percent of breast cancer cases are thought to be hereditary, resulting directly from gene defects - called mutations - inherited from a parent. In this Healthcast, we find out how one mom's breast cancer diagnosis pushed her daughter to take action for her own health.

47-year-old Sandra Semien of Lake Charles knows her family history puts her at a higher risk for breast cancer.  "My great-grandmother was diagnosed with breast cancer and also my mother."

Having one first degree relative with breast cancer doubles a woman's risk for developing breast cancer.  Having two first-degree relatives can increase that risk about five-fold. For Sandra, the reality of breast cancer didn't really hit close to home until her mom's diagnosis in June of 2006, which is also when she found a lump in her own breast.  "Being told at that time that I would possibly either wait or continue with a second opinion," says Sandra, "because my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer, I decided to get a second opinion."

The mass was removed from Sandra's breast and was found to be cancerous. At that point she had a mastectomy - at the same time that her mom was undergoing chemo and radiation for her breast cancer.  "I wanted to be there more for my mom, so finding out for myself," says Sandra, "it was like a double whammy. I not only became the caregiver, but someone caring for me also."

CHRISTUS St. Patrick Hospital Women's Health Center Breast Imaging Coordinator, Gwendolyn Champagne, says it's common for a family member's cancer diagnosis to spark action in someone else.  "We've had patients have their mother come in," says Champagne, "have their sister come in and have their friends come in. They spread the news - you need to go in for your mammogram."

With African-American women, the five-year breast cancer survival rate is 69 percent compared to 84 percent for white women. Champagne says mammograms need to be pushed more with all women ages 35 and up to make for the best outcome.  "We suggest that you come in between the age of 35 and 40 to have your first mammogram," she says, "and then every year after the age 40."

If you are at an increased risk for breast cancer, like Sandra's daughter, these screenings should be done earlier. Fortunately, Sandra and her mom are both cancer-free and feeling good.  "As of this point in time, we just hope for the best," she says.

*Altogether, about 25 percent of women with breast cancer have a family member with this disease.

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