Cancer survivor to speak about early detection through genetic testing
When Brandi Kay Preston was 14, she and her siblings made their mother a promise. They vowed that, when they were old enough, they would take a medical test to learn whether they carried the genetic mutation that predisposed their mom to breast cancer. Their mother, Kamie, was diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer at 35, again at 38 and died at age 40.
Preston took the genetic test on her 19th birthday — the soonest she could in Nebraska — and learned she had shared the BRCA1 mutation her mom had. Preston said it meant she had an 87 percent chance of breast cancer and 63 percent chance of ovarian cancer over her lifetime.
Despite the results, Preston said she saw the genetic test as a gift. It was the chance her mother didn’t have to manage her medical care. She went on to found the Kamie K. Preston Heredity Cancer Foundation in honor of her mom and will be the keynote speaker Thursday at Valley Regional Medical Center’s annual Positively Pink Girls Night Out. The event aims to educate women about breast health and will include mini spa treatments following Preston’s remarks.
She said the steps she took after learning she was positive for the BRCA1 mutation have left her without fear of breast cancer.
“ I think that’s the greatest gift,” Preston said. “I don’t think we should wait for a 35-year-old to get cancer.”
She was able to immediately begin selecting her team of doctors, another option her mother didn’t have. Preston’s brother Ben and sister Bailey also underwent the genetic test, which uses a saliva sample, and Ben tested positive for the BRCA1 mutation.
Preston was 22 when she decided to undergo a prophylactic mastectomy. Her son was 6 months old when she got a call from her doctor’s office notifying her that a recent mammogram showed she had no signs of cancer. Sitting in her car with her son Peyton cooing in the backseat, Preston said she had a realization.
“ There’s an 87 percent chance my doctor will call me at some point and say, ‘You have cancer,’” she said. “I don’t have to wait for that call.”
Preston wasn’t scared of losing her breasts, she said. She was scared of chemo and the thought of leaving behind her child. Preston wanted to have a bilateral mastectomy.
“ I grew up never attached to my breasts. It was always, ‘When am I going to get cancer?’ It was never ‘if,’” she said.
Rick Flores is a women’s health specialist for Myriad Genetic Laboratories, which produces the myRisk genetic test that detects the BRCA1 mutations and can identify a patient’s lifetime risk for eight types of cancer. He said women are offered the test by their doctors based on their family history and risks for breast cancer.
Preston’s foundation offers a support group for 230 women who are at high risk for cancer. It’s a place not only where they can ask each other questions but where their children can support each other, she added.
Preston said she wants people to know, while they may be afraid to learn their risk of cancer, genetic testing can help people stay healthy.
Flores agreed and said Preston had uncovered her risks by undergoing genetic testing.
“ Women don’t do this for themselves; they do this for their children. When a woman understands it will be passed down to their children, that’s one of the main reasons she does it,” he said. “To be able to manage risk is life-saving. There’s power in knowledge.”
The hospital is offering $60 mammograms throughout October. Positively Pink Girls Night Out is 5-9 p.m. today at Valley Regional Medical Center, 100 E. Alton Gloor Blvd. Preston will begin speaking at 6 p.m. For more information, contact Director of Community and Public Relations at (956) 350-7745.