Reducing Breast Cancer Risk With BRCA: Lifestyle as Medicine


Imagine this: You’re a 26-year-old doctor-in-training who unexpectedly discovers that you carry a genetic mutation that significantly increases your lifetime risk of cancer.

That was me. I was also starting out a career in palliative care, a field of medicine specializing in treating people living with serious life-threatening illnesses. I experienced waves of fear, anxiety, and uncertainty as I navigated this new diagnosis while simultaneously caring for people living and dying with advanced cancers.

This was an especially overwhelming experience for me. I had seen cancer up close when my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer for the first time at age 33, when I was just 13 years old, and then again when she was 47.

I encouraged my mom to undergo genetic testing, years after her diagnosis, which revealed that she carried the BRCA1 mutation, a genetic mutation that can increase a woman’s lifetime risk of breast cancer by up to 87 percent and ovarian cancer by up to 50 to 60 percent. Shortly thereafter, I received my own BRCA1 genetic mutation diagnosis as well.


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