Saliva Test Finds Genes Associated With Breast and Ovarian Cancer

By: Deanna Bettineschi Email
By: Deanna Bettineschi Email

The test to find out if you are at risk for breast or ovarian cancer is simple.
No needles just a swab of your saliva.

As an oncology nurse at Southeast Alabama Medical Center, Natalie Leighty knows the value of modern medicine.
Two years ago the center had a breakthrough,
Leighty could administer a simple test that could identify specific genes.
Genes that make a woman predisposed to getting certain cancers.

“The brac1 and two is what their looking for.” Oncology Nurse Natalie Leighty said.

“We can actually take samples inside your oral cavity and send the cells off to be tested. “ Radiation Oncologist Steve Stokes said.

“If you test positive to the gene then you have an increased risk of having breast cancer or ovarian cancer throughout your lifetime.” Leighty said.

Little did she know her role would soon change, from administering the tests, to taking one.

“I decided to go ahead with the genetic testing process of getting all the piece of my puzzle together. “ Leighty said.

Knowing breast cancer runs in her family, Leighty wanted a glimpse into her future.
Leighty's results came back positive.
That's when she made a very difficult decision.

“It was important for me to reduce the risk of recurrence and by doing a bilateral mastectomy I did reduce my risk.” Leighty said.

It will prevent them from having breast cancer 95 percent of the time.

Many women aren't as brave as Leighty.
The thought of having both breasts removed tends to threaten their femininity.
But doctors say, there's a way to fix that.

“We are able to preserve the nipple so you can have sensation and you can use an implant to give a good cosmetic result and sensation that’s what Angelina Jolie had for her.” Stokes said.

Now fully healed, Leighty uses her choice to better her patients' experience while they are in her care.

“I am able to relate to my patients. I can sit down look my patients in the face and let them know the journey is much easier traveled together than alone and we will do it together.” Leighty said.

Doctors say any woman who carries b-r-a-c 1 and 2, have an 80 to 85 percent chance of getting breast cancer and a 50 to 60 percent chance of ovarian cancer in their lifetime.

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