Previvor: What it means to get ahead of cancer

OCEAN PINES, Md. – Breast cancer awareness month starts Saturday.

The word Previvor is helping Americans get ahead of cancer. It’s what you do after finding out you have that gene mutation that makes the difference.

“I encourage women to get tested,” says Lauren Bossert, a Previvor.

That’s Lauren Bossert, a previvor of breast cancer. “A previvor is someone who is a higher risk for cancer, specifically for me breast cancer 19.49.08 it runs in my family, I have a gene mutation, which makes you a higher risk for having breast cancer,” says Bossert.

After Lauren’s sister found a lump on her breast, it was then that Lauren and her 4 sisters were tested for this gene. While waiting for her test results, Lauren had a plan to get ahead of cancer: a double mastectomy. “Even before I was told I was positive for the gene mutation I already knew what I was going to do if I was positive, so as soon as I found out I was like alright what’s the next steps? Let’s get this figured out, how can we get it taken care of?” says Bossert.

Doctors say this is life-changing so it’s important to do your research and find out if you have the gene. “You want to get risk-stratified, you want to find out if you’re high risk. If you’ve had breast cancer then I’m definitely saying get tested if you haven’t been tested, also if you were tested years ago when we were only looking at 1 or 2 genes, we now have a panel of breast cancer genes that should be looked at,” says Karen Barbosa, Medical Director for the Delaware Breast Cancer Program.

Though you can not change your genetic makeup, health experts say you can get ahead of what could be cancer later on. “We can look at not only is it a disease of getting older, but exercise is also important, getting 4 hours of cardiovascular fitness can reduce a woman’s risk of getting breast cancer, so being physically active, obesity increases your risk of breast cancer,” says Dr. Barbosa.

After finding out about this history of breast cancer in her family, Lauren is glad she completed the prevention steps and had the support team that she did. “I just knew it was the right choice for me, and I just knew right away so I feel really good about it I’m really glad that I did it and I have no regrets about it,” says Bossert.

Lauren says that she is focused on the future now. “Now because I have that gene mutation, Gianna my daughter will have to get tested for that gene mutation somewhere down the line sometime after she turns 18 because there’s really nothing you can do prior to that anyways,” Bossert adds.

Director Barbosa says surgeries like a mastectomy can be effective; however, she encourages anyone who thinks they may have the gene to talk to their health providers. “The surgery is very specific to a patient, we don’t want to generalize that every woman with a family history is going to need their breast removed and we don’t want women doing a surgery that we can’t undo,” Dr. Barbosa adds.

In the meantime, she recommends that women do self-breast exams to stay ahead of breast cancer.

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