LAWTON, OK (KSWO)- October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and doctors are reminding women to get their yearly mammogram and be aware of your risks of breast cancer.
58-year-old Barbara Endsley lost her mother to breast cancer in 2004.
"You'd think I'd gone out and had a mammogram, but I didn't. I waited, and waited."
It wasn't but 4 years later when Barbara noticed a knot above her breast, that tested positive for triple negative breast cancer. She had a single mastectomy and was cancer free until last year. In 2016, the other breast ended up with cancer. It too was a grade 3 aggressive cancer. Barbara was optimistic since they had caught it at an early stage.
"I went to Memorial, I got my little thing and read through it, and got online and researched everything. I was kind of happy. I got there and Dr. Robin looked at me and said 'You're BRCA 1.'"
"The BRCA mutation is a glitch that we have in our body that makes our body less likely to combat cancer cells when they first start. So it makes us more likely to get cancer." Medical Oncologist and Hematologist Dr. Manal Robin says the BRCA gene is inherited.
"It's very important to know about this gene because it predisposes the patient to other kinds of cancer. If they have cancer once, and they are positive for the BRCA gene, there is almost a 60 percent chance that they can get another cancer."
For Barbara, when she found out she was BRCA 1 positive, she called her daughter to tell her that she thought she should get tested for the gene.
"I said, you know this isn't going to say that you have cancer, or that you're going to get cancer. And she said, 'I know.' So they did the blood work for me for the BRCA 1, but they did the spit test for my daughter. And she came out positive."
Dr. Robin says there are options for patients who test positive for the BRCA 1 gene, like a double mastectomy or committing to a meticulous screening program. She says that only 20% of cancers are linked to this gene, so not every patient needs to be tested.
"It should be offered to somebody who has a triple negative breast cancer, patients who are younger than 45, patients who have several family members with certain types of cancers, patients who have a previous history of cancer and cancer on both sides of the breasts."
Barbara said she is very thankful that she was tested for BRCA 1 because now her daughter can be proactive. She says that's the advice everyone should follow.
"You have to be your own advocate for your health. You can't expect somebody else to take care of you. You have to go get the things done that you need to get done. You don't die with cancer anymore unless you are not wise. You don't get the mammograms, you don't get the things that you need to be getting."
And just a Breast Cancer Awareness Month reminder --- If you're over the age of 40, and haven't received your yearly mammogram for breast cancer, you can call the McMahon Center for Breast Health at 580-250-5846 to schedule an appointment.