This breast cancer gene is less well known, but almost as dangerous

Heidi Marsh, 46, of Seattle, tested positive for the PALB2 mutation after her mother – a patient with breast cancer and pancreatic cancer...


Heidi Marsh, 46, of Seattle, tested positive for the PALB2 mutation after her mother – a patient with breast cancer and pancreatic cancer – developed it. She said her own doctor was unaware of the gene.

“My OB-GYN was aware of my mom’s story and never suggested genetic testing,” Ms. Marsh said. “She’s never heard of it. I educated her. The oncologist she sent me to didn’t suggest surgery.

But Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, a partner at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, where Ms Marsh’s mother had been an oncology nurse, was aware of the gene mutation. The group immediately assembled a team consisting of a surgical oncologist, a pancreatic cancer specialist, a geneticist, a nutritionist and a social worker.

“It was life changing,” said Ms. Marsh, who had her fallopian tubes removed in April. (She has been told that most ovarian cancers start in the tubes first. She plans to remove her ovaries after menopause.)

She will have breast monitoring with alternating mammograms and breast MRIs every six months. She has already had an endoscopic ultrasound to examine her pancreas.

She found a Facebook group, PALB2 Warriors, useful. Because she has a background in health care – she was a phlebotomist – she says she looks beyond individual publications, to placebo-controlled, peer-reviewed studies for information. But when it comes to personal stories of experience with prophylactic mastectomies and reconstruction, she says it’s priceless.

“It wasn’t remotely on my radar screen,” she said. “In a way, I feel empowered. But I also feel like I’m waiting for the other shoe to fall off, that cancer will be inevitable.

But above all, she is grateful to know PALB2 and the risks involved.

“It’s a wake-up call and a wake-up call,” she said. “You can do something about it if you want to. “

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Newsrust - US Top News: This breast cancer gene is less well known, but almost as dangerous
This breast cancer gene is less well known, but almost as dangerous
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