Komen St. Louis Community Partner: SLU Cancer Center’s Educating Women About Hereditary Risk for Developing Breast Cancer

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A woman who discovers she is at risk for developing breast cancer may wonder if someone else in her family is also at risk. That very thought can help save a life.

An estimated 10 percent of women diagnosed with breast cancer have a hereditary predisposition to the disease and are at substantial risk for a second breast cancer; 50 percent of their first-degree relatives also carry a very high risk (92%) for developing early onset breast cancer.

“People need to understand what that risk is,” says Suzanne Mahon, RN, DNSc, AOCN, founder of the Hereditary Cancer Program at Saint Louis University Cancer Center. “Our goal is to provide a good risk assessment, appropriate counseling and coordinated care for the family.”

Through the Educating Women About Hereditary Risk for Developing Breast Cancer program, Mahon provides women who have an inherited predisposition — and their families — with the support and care they need.

The program educates patients about their breast cancer risks through a comprehensive family history review and, when appropriate, genetic testing. This education and counseling addresses the potential risks, benefits and ramifications of genetic testing as well as recommendations for early detection and prevention through strategies such as prophylactic surgery.

“We saw 212 families in the last calendar year,” says Mahon. “If one member of the family tests positive, then I’m going to see the sister or daughter or aunt as well.”

Funding from Komen St. Louis makes the program available to families who may not otherwise have access. This is the 11th year of Komen St. Louis funding for this program.

“We are just thrilled that Komen St. Louis funding has allowed us to have this program,” says Mahon. “It’s good for Komen because they know if we see someone and they need testing, we’re going to get it done.”

In 2012, Komen St. Louis granted nearly $3.1 million to 25 local breast health programs in our 17-county Missouri/Illinois service area, including the Educating Women About Hereditary Risk for Breast Cancer program at Saint Louis University Cancer Center. These grants help fund breast health and breast cancer screening, treatment, education and support services for those in our community who otherwise may not have access due to low income, lack of insurance or other barriers.

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