HOLLYWOOD (CBS4) – When you think about family trees, you likely think about where our ancestors came from; their names; and the language they spoke. But there’s information in our family trees that could save our lives.
“They never think ‘where did their family come from originally?’ and it makes a difference to know this,” said Maxine Chang Chin.
She is a cancer risk assessment counselor at Memorial Cancer Institute in Hollywood.
“A lot of people don’t know their family history, because people don’t talk about cancer,” Chin said.
But that history can tell doctors whether you’re at risk for breast cancer.
“I lost my aunt when she was 32,” said Chana Wasserman. “My grandmother was 52 when she died.”
As a result, she has regular mammograms. Wasserman enjoys life with her daughters and her dogs and was shocked when she found a lump.
“And I never dreamed it would just hit so fast,” Wasserman said.
That’s why counselors encourage using the BRCA and other genetic tests. Wasserman got hers through a Komen foundation grant.
“I tested positive for the Ashkenazi gene which predisposes to breast cancer.”
She decided to get a double mastectomy.
“For me it was a little bit of relief because I would choose not to live having to undergo testing every 6 months,” Wasserman said.
It also led her daughters, both just in their 20’s, to get tested. Chana’s oldest daughter was negative; but her younger daughter, Ghena, tested positive. She has an 87% chance of developing breast cancer.