WAUKEE, Iowa -- A Waukee mother is undergoing surgeries that tend to be associated with cancer without even being diagnosed.
47-year-old single mother Patty Blayer is taking control of her own health.
She's opting for some serious surgeries in hopes it drops her risk of being diagnosed with cancer and being around to raise her two-and-a-half-year-old son Radek.
It all started when several members of Blayer’s family were diagnosed with cancer, including her grandmother, father, brother and a cousin.
Doctors said it wasn’t a coincidence.
“It started to all make sense that some of us were carriers for this gene,” Blayer said.
That gene is called BRCA-1 and BRCA-2, and we all have it.
However, it's more prone to mutate in some carriers. The mutation can lead to multiple types of cancer.
Blayer’s family history convinced her to get tested.
“She called me and they came back positive, and then my whole world changed. Finding out you have a gene mutation like this that can cause cancer is overwhelming enough but to actually have cancer to me would be so much worse,” Blayer said.
The confirmation left Blayer with several options; do nothing, undergo repeated screenings that might catch any cancer early, or a more drastic option to prevent that possibility.
“If I can avoid cancer, I will avoid cancer at any cost. I don't want to do chemo and I want to be here to see my son grow up,” Blayer said.
Last week, Blayer underwent a hysterectomy and had her ovaries and tubes removed. She has a double mastectomy scheduled for November.
“I don't want to put my son through me going through chemo, me going through these couple of surgeries that I’m going to do this year are a walk in the park compared him watching me go through chemo and maybe not making it,” Blayer said.
The lifetime risk of getting breast cancer with a BRCA mutation is greater than 80 percent. Carriers also have a high risk for ovarian and other cancers.
After Blayer’s surgeries her risk drops to less than 10 percent, the general population has an eight percent risk.
“For me it was easy, it was an easy decision. All I have to do is look at my son, that is so much more important,” Blayer said.
Blayer’s Doctor Scott Hamling says the number of patients choosing this option has drastically gone up.
He says improved technology is encouraging people to get proactive about their health.
“There's data that shows that patients that pursue genetic testing and undergo adequate genetic counseling as part of their initial evaluation have a better feeling as far as self-reassurance when they choose their definitive surgical procedure or screening procedure,” Dr. Hamling with the Iowa Clinic said.
Blayer said her decision was an easy one.
“He is the center of my world and he's just, I don't know what I would do if I didn't get to hear that laughter and his funny little sayings. Every day, it's going to be some pain, but in a year we'll be back to normal and it should be great,” Blayer said.
It’s a decision that will ensure she's around to watch Radek grow up.
“This is my way to give him a chance at a great life with his mama, rather than to not have me here. He is very much worth it,” Blayer said.
Dr. Hamling recommends before you even begin to think about the process of genetic testing to meet with a counselor because of the heightened emotions and anxiety that go along with a positive test result.
Medicare and insurance will cover the costs of the genetic testing as well as the surgeries and reconstruction if you chose that route.
However, there are several qualifications a patient must meet first.
Those include but not limited to:
-Having early on-set breast cancer under 50-years-old
-Other types of cancer under 59-years-old
-A family history of early on-set breast cancer or ovarian cancer in other family members
-A family history highly suggestive of BRCA abnormalities but no surviving family members to test
For more information on BRCA-1 and BRCA-2 gene mutations click here.