St. Petersburg, FL -- Imagine if you had an 80 percent chance of developing breast cancer. One Bay area woman discovered those odds after undergoing a BRAC analysis. She decided to undergo a double mastectomy.
"To me, there's no other choice than to do the surgery," says mother of two and 10 Connects employee Heather Rubio.
It's a choice not all people would make when they are cancer free. Her mother is a breast cancer survivor.
"My breast surgeon said to me when I met with her, 'We don't know when you're going to get cancer, but what we do know is that, having this gene, you're going to get cancer,' and this is just my way of being able to take control of cancer before it takes care of me," says Heather.
Heather had BRAC Analysis, a genetic testing. It's a simple blood test to see if you have a gene mutation that puts you at higher risk for breast and ovarian cancer. A year and a half later, after having two kids and a hysterectomy, she's ready to take the next step.
"She is really brave. She is a really strong person," says Heather's husband, Chris Rubio.
"Knowledge is empowering. It allows you to be in control of your future. And that's what she's doing. She's going to be fine, raise those little boys while they have their little boys or girls," says her surgeon at St. Joseph's Hospital, Dr. Sylvia Campbell.
While Dr. Campbell says it's a great idea to get tested, you have to be ready to live with the results.
"It's very emotional. It's a difficult thing. It's a very difficult thing on all levels for everyone. It's a family decision," says Dr. Campbell. "If you can preclude the development of the cancer, then you don't have to go through the chemotherapy and all the other possible treatment options that are there. This way, she's taking control of the cancer."
Heather says knowing the surgery will decrease her breast cancer risk to about one percent made this decision easier.
"It's for my future and the future of our family," says Heather. "I just would tell anyone who has a family history of breast cancer or is of Jewish decent, because there's a higher incident of this in that population, just go and consult with your doctor and find out about getting tested."
This mode of prevention may be covered by health insurance.
"One of the big decisions for me, obviously, when you're looking at doing a $60,000-$100,000 procedure is whether or not insurance would pay for it. The testing of the gene was covered because of my mom's side because of the family history. And then all the subsequent surgeries - the hysterectomy, the mastectomy and the reconstruction - have all been covered under the insurance, so that was a big help. [It] helped my decision to go ahead and do it all," says Heather.
One of Heather's resources for making her decision was the non-profit group FORCE. To find out more about FORCE, click here. To learn more about BRAC Analysis, click here.