Wheatfield Cancer Survivor Encourages Testing for BRCA Genes

8:35 AM, May 31, 2013   |    comments
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WHEATFIELD, N.Y. -- A Wheatfield mother and grandmother who carries a breast cancer gene similar to the one Angelina Jolie does, is encouraging men and women to get tested.

Carla Gress underwent a double mastectomy as a cancer survivor to reduce her risk of getting breast cancer a second time. She says it is a decision she will never regret.

"I knew I had to do it. There were no ifs, ands or buts about it. I knew I had to do it," says Gress.

In 2010, doctors diagnosed Gress with breast cancer. She underwent a lumpectomy, radiation and chemotherapy. Then, her doctor instructed her to have the genetic testing done for the BRCA gene. With four cousins and an aunt, all on her father's side, also diagnosed with breast cancer, Gress wanted to do all she could to stop it from returning.

"So, I went and I was positive," she recalls.

Gress' doctor then told her she had to make that difficult decision.

"You want to do this as soon as possible. You don't want to have to keep coming back every like six months and have that worry have that fear, you know, did it come back, is it growing, you know, have the surgery, get it done, get it over with and that just reduces your risk dramatically. So, that's what I did. You know, I have six grandchildren and I have to be here for them," she says.

That surgery, a double mastectomy, means Gress' risk of developing breast cancer again has dropped from 87-percent to five-percent. She also had surgery to remove her ovaries to reduce her risk of ovarian cancer.

"I'm cancer free, I feel great, thank God, and all the love and support from my family has gotten me through all this," she says.

She adds that early detection is key and wants men and women to get tested if breast cancer runs in your family.

"Don't be scared because this is your life you're talking about here. What I went through really, I know it's a big ordeal, but really sitting here, it really wasn't all that bad. You know, so I encourage women to go and be tested," she said.

Gress' daughters also tested positive for the mutated gene, and now they have the very personal and difficult decision to make about whether they will also undergo surgery like their mom. She has a breast MRI and blood work done every four to six months. She just went to see her doctor Tuesday, and is doing just fine.

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