Special Report: Cancer Gene

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DECATUR - For one Decatur family, breast cancer is a fact of life.    Out of seven siblings, 5 have tested positive for a gene called PALB2.        And the gene mutation is being passed down to other generations. Daughters, sons, and many of their children have the gene. 

Kori Kostenski-Byard says “We all kind of felt all along that there's more to our story then that we're negative for BRAC”  BRAC is the gene that can indicate a family link to breast cancer.   But what they really want you to know is there's another gene. In fact there are many other genes.

Kori says there's new genetic testing available for breast cancer beyond the BRCA tests.  Dr. James Wade, with Cancer Care Specialists of Central Illinois told WAND News “You want to be careful to make sure that you have just assumed that a negative test answers the question.

The gene PALB2 doesn't just indicate a risk for breast cancer, that gene mutation means there’s also an increased risk for ovarian and pancreatic cancer.  Those risk factors have lead many in the Decatur Family our WAND’s Dawn Sterling spoke with to have preventative surgeries like mastectomies or hysterectomies.

Kori told Dawn “For me it was a no brainer, absolutely.  I've seen too much of cancer in my life and knew from the very beginning that I was going to get every percentage in reduction in risk that I could."

You should know having a cancer gene is relatively rare. Dr. Wade says “There are 200,000-230,000 women a year diagnosed with breast cancer in the country, and only about 5 to 10 percent are related to this kind of in born genetic change.” 

But for this family, the goal is simply getting the word out about other cancer genes.  According to Dr. Wade patients need to be their own advocate. “I think the take home for all women is to find out about your family history and if it looks like there’s a pattern we just might not have the technology yet to find it.”  When it comes to genetic testing, Doctors and scientists are always discovering new things.

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