BUFFALO, NY-- It's important for every woman to know her risk for breast cancer and her family history. But women should also know about another link with a different type of cancer.
"I spent all of my life looking for breast cancer because I thought for sure i was going to get it," said Lyn McDonald.
But Lyn McDonald never did get it. She was vigilant about getting her mammograms so she could catch it early. But it was a pain in her abdomen that brought her to her gynecologist last spring. Her doctor immediately suspected ovarian cancer.
"And she said 'given your mother's history'. And i said, 'What do you mean given my mother's history?' Because I never knew there was a connection between the breast cancer and the ovarian cancer," added McDonald.
Lyn's mother had died of breast cancer when she was very young and four of her cousins also got breast cancer. Genetic testing later confirmed Lyn had the breast cancer gene BRCA-1.
"There is a genetic risk for some patients who have BRCA-1 or BRCA-2," said Roswell Park Cancer Institute Gynecologic Oncologist Nefertiti duPont, MD.
"Those families do have an extremely high risk of breast and ovarian cancer," added Dr. duPont.
Women with genetic mutations in BRCA1 or 2 are quoted as having a 56 to 87 percent lifetime risk of breast cancer and a 16 to 44 percent risk of ovarian cancer.
That's why Dr. Dupont recommends women find out all they can about their family history and share that information with their doctors.
"Unfortunately, there is no screening test for ovarian cancer. So everyone knows, get your mammogram every year, its really important. But no one really knows what the warning signs for ovarian cancer are," said Dr. duPont.
Here are the symptoms of ovarian cancer: abdominal bloating, pain or pelvic pressure, vague gastro-intestinal discomfort and urinary frequency. If these symptoms persist, consult your doctor-- especially women who know they have the breast cancer gene or have a family history of cancer.
"Talk to your doctor if there is any chance you are at risk for it-- number one. And then just be vigilant," said McDonald.
"Know your own body and know if there's something's that feels different," she added.