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Healthy Balance

Family History Leads Sonnia to UVA High-Risk Breast & Ovarian Clinic

I am the definition of someone who is at high risk for cancer. My aunt died from ovarian cancer at age 51. My mom passed away from breast cancer at 48. So I knew there was no way for me to avoid this reality and pretend I wasn’t at risk. But rather than wait around for cancer to hit me like a ton of bricks, I decided to take action.

My husband is a doctor at UVA so I knew about the High Risk Breast and Ovarian Cancer Program. I went there and had a test done to see if I truly had an inherited risk for developing cancer based on my genes.

The test was negative, but it wasn’t what you’d call a “true negative.” I don’t have the known gene they look for as an indicator for breast cancer, but we can’t be sure that one particular gene is what brought on cancer for my aunt and mother. So I’m still part of a high-risk group.

But my story isn’t so much about that one test I got last year as it is about the ongoing attention I’m receiving. People like Susan Modesitt, MD, and certified genetic counselors will be monitoring my well-being throughout my life. Together, we developed a preemptive plan for me, just in case.

Now I get mammograms and a breast MRI every six months. And I also get screened for ovarian cancer.

I don’t know what the future holds. No one does. But at least I have a little more peace of mind knowing that I’m taking charge of my health, and I’m prepared in case something abnormal does show up on a mammogram or MRI.

Too often, people don’t find out they have cancer until it’s too late to do anything about it. Thanks to UVA’s High Risk Cancer Program, I’m empowered to act before it happens to prevent it from devastating my life.

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