News from Illinois CancerCare

All in the Family

Her mother died from ovarian cancer in 2006.

Her mother’s three sisters succumbed to breast cancer.

Several other family members – including one man – tested positive for cancer mutations.

And although not a genetic consideration, she also watched her mother-in-law die of ovarian cancer less than one year after her own mother passed away.

The Writing On the Wall

It seems like a woman with this history would be running to the nearest genetics clinic. But, like many people, knowing the answer can be a scary concept. That’s why Ricia Lefebvre was initially hesitant to get genetic counseling. But it’s also why she ultimately pursued the truth.

When Ricia was about 35 years old, she began to consider the idea of testing. By the time she’d hit her mid-forties, she’d already had multiple biopsies and lumpectomies – and needed another lumpectomy. Her surgeon strongly urged her to get genetic testing and counseling.

“Sure enough,” Ricia said. “I tested positive for the BRCA1 gene.”

The nurse practitioner in the genetics clinic at Illinois CancerCare reviewed Ricia’s bloodwork and described the statistical likelihood of breast and ovarian cancer occurring – the odds were extremely high. Her doctor recommended a prophylactic (preventive) double mastectomy and total hysterectomy.

“Seeing the percentages on paper made it real,” Ricia explained. “It was too risky to not do both procedures, so we moved forward.”

Treatment and Relief

In December of 2016, Ricia underwent a double mastectomy and had spacers placed in anticipation of breast reconstruction surgery. During the procedure, the surgeon discovered a 2 cm lump, which turned out to be Stage 1 triple negative breast cancer. Because this is an aggressive type of cancer that can be difficult to treat when it’s more advanced, Ricia believes that her surgeon saved her life.

After finishing six months of chemotherapy and completing the breast reconstruction process, Ricia took several months to regain her strength and then had her total hysterectomy in December of 2017. Thanks to the amazing medical resources available in our community – including Illinois CancerCare – Ricia was able to remain in Peoria for all of her treatment and follow-up.

It was certainly an overwhelming time in her life, but looking back on her decision, this soft-spoken married mother of three adult children doesn’t regret a thing. After all, being around for her husband, kids and pets is what matters most.

SIDEBAR ARTICLE (Optional or could be used for Facebook w/a link to main article)

Genetic Testing Overview

Women (and men) who have a family history of breast or ovarian cancer may be at increased risk for these diseases. Talk to your doctor if you are of Eastern European (Ashkenazi) Jewish heritage, have two or more family members who had ovarian or breast cancer, or have a family member who:

·         had breast cancer before age 50

·         had cancer in both breasts

·         had both ovarian and breast cancer

·         is a male with breast cancer

Genetic testing is done with a simple blood test and genetic counseling is an opportunity for you to talk with a specially-trained physician or nurse practitioner to determine your cancer risk. In addition to ovarian and breast cancer, Illinois CancerCare offers genetic counseling for several other types of cancer.