(WTNH) – October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and each week in our Positively Pink series we are introducing survivors. One woman discovered her own breast cancer, but she says it didn’t feel like she thought it would.
Beth Reinhart loves spending time with her husband and three sons. The 45-year-old mom from Sterling had her world turned upside down in a single moment while watching TV one day.
“I repositioned myself in my chair and it just felt weird,” Reinhart said. “The top of my breast felt strange.”
She was shocked at what she discovered.
“I had always thought that a lump would feel like a grape or a marble, and mine was not like that at all,” Reinhart said.
She says it felt more like a hard rubber eraser, like the ones kids use in schools. Reinhart was shocked because she had a clean mammogram six months earlier.
Doctors discovered that Reinhart’s cancer was aggressive. She started five months of chemotherapy.
She then had a double mastectomy, a hysterectomy and radiation to prevent future cancers.
“In the meantime, I had genetic counseling done and realized I indeed had the BRACA 2 gene,” Reinhart said.
Her doctor, Anca Bulgaru with Smilow Cancer Hospital in Waterford, explains what it means to have a genetic disposition to cancer.
“Have a mutation in one of the genes that are supposed to protect us against cancer,” Dr. Bulcaru said.
As for mammograms, Dr. Bulgaru says average-risk women should start getting them at the age of 40. If there are women in the family with a history of breast cancer at a younger age, getting mammograms sooner is recommended, going by the person who had breast cancer age.
“If mom had breast cancer at 42, the daughter should start screening in her mid-30s,” Dr. Bulgaru explained. “Anybody with breast cancer younger than age 50 qualifies for genetic testing, even in the absence of family history.”
Reinhart had a family history of cancer, but it wasn’t talked about. The testing determined she got the genetic risk from her father’s side. He died from lung cancer at 56 and was not a smoker.
Reinhart’s general advice to women is, “trust your body. Like trust your body, I think a piece of me when I felt that watching TV, I knew.”
Dr. Bulgaru says that of the one in eight women in the U.S. who get breast cancer, five to ten percent will have a genetic connection.
To learn more about how you can help to raise funds to support breast cancer research in Connecticut, click here.