Genetic Mutation Increases Chances of Getting Cancer - ABC FOX MONTANA NEWS, WEATHER, SPORTS - KTMF/KWYB

Genetic Mutation Increases Chances of Getting Cancer

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MISSOULA -

Breast cancer awareness month provides a great reminder to get screened. Most doctors recommend women get their first mammogram at 40, but if you test positive for a genetic mutation, they might recommend you screen much sooner.

Michelle Weaver Knowles is a breast health navigator at Community Medical Center in Missoula. She helps a patient from diagnosis through treatment. It's something she has personal experience with.


"I'm a breast cancer survivor myself. I'm BRCA positive," Weaver Knowles said.

BRCA is a genetic mutation that makes you significantly more likely to develop cancer.

"It's two different genes. Chromosome 17 is BRCA 1 and Chromosome 13 is BRCA 2 and those are the two most common genes we see in hereditary breast cancers," Weaver Knowles said.

She said about eight percent of the general population will develop breast cancer. If you are BRCA positive those odds go up to 87 percent. Even before meeting with Christie Fellows, Weaver Knowles noticed a warning sign for this mutation and asked Fellows to speed up treatment. It was a decision Fellows said saved her life.

"She didn't know me from Adam," Fellows said. "She just knew and she picked up the phone and called me and talked to me."

Weaver Knowles said there are three main warning signs that cause them to test a patient for BRCA mutations.
1. Multiple breast or ovarian cancers within a family, often diagnosed at an early age.
2. Two or more primary cancers in a single family member.
3. Cases of male breast cancer

Fellows said she has a family history of cancer and opted not to test for this mutation until cancer was spread throughout her body. Now she's encouraging others to learn from her mistake.

"You should do this test," Fellows said. "It takes five minutes. Swishy swallow, spit in a cup. That's what the test is. I mean it's really not that hard."

Still, both of these stories end on a positive note. Both women are now breast cancer survivors.

Weaver Knowles says the test is expensive, but she adds there are many organizations there to help women get screened. A visit with the Community Medical Center nurse navigator never costs anything and she will help you find the resources available to help you get the treatment and screening you need.

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