Wichita KU Med student leads breast cancer study after mastectomy

KSN Digital Extra

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – A KU School of Medicine-Wichita student learned she carries a breast cancer gene mutation, now she is leading research on a breast cancer risk study.

“We tested both of my parents and it turns out my dad carries the gene,” said Caroline Breit, KU School of Medicine-Wichita student. “It was kind of a shock because we don’t have a lot of breast cancer in our family.”

Caroline Breit, a third-year medical student was just 22 years old when she decided to undergo testing to determine whether she carried a gene for breast cancer after learning her sister tested positive for the gene.

A year later Breit decided to have a preventative double mastectomy after testing positive for BRCA2, which put her at great risk of developing breast cancer. Breit said it was a scary experience, but it was a personal choice she made for herself.

“I didn’t fully register the impact of having surgery,” said Breit. “It’s hard when you’re a young woman to think about changing your body forever. It was hard for me because sometimes we can be self-conscious about our bodies.”

Despite her worries, she said she knew the choice was the right one. Breit said she always knew she wanted to be a doctor, but if it weren’t for her surgery, she might not have ended up on the path she’s on now.

“I’ve become interested in doing research and breast cancer research and I’m hoping to go into breast surgery as well,” said Breit. “I do think that everything happens for a reason. If I didn’t find out or if I didn’t have the gene myself, I might not have become interested in doing research or even wanting to do surgery.”

She recently completed a research project where she worked to calculate breast cancer risks in women who don’t have a genetic mutation, but have a family history of breast cancer.

“I looked at women who had underwent genetic testing and a risk assessment and didn’t have a mutation,” said Breit. “It’s interesting to me because these women don’t have a genetic mutation, yet, they have two or three or four women or men in their family who’ve had breast cancer.”

In completing her research she found that 51% of the women examined in the study were still considered high risk. Breit said half of the women who undergo genetic testing who test negative for a mutation are at a high enough risk that it would be beneficial for them to have regular screenings, yearly MRIs or frequent doctors visits.

She has one year left of medical school and plans to become a surgeon, helping women, just like her surgeons helped her.

Breit did make a fearless decision at a young age, but she does have advice for others.

“I want people to be more aware even when they’re young because for me it was hard to think about the long-term consequences of my health when I was just like 20 years old,” said Breit. “I think that it’s important to get genetic testing if you do have a high risk or if you do have a family history so that at least you know about it and can act upon it if you want to.”

To learn more about Breit’s project, click here, or to read her full research study click here.

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