Empowered by Knowledge: Hereditary cancer, genetic testing, and the Bourget family story.

"Knowing we are BRCA II gene carriers opened many options for monitoring and prevention."

Robyn Bourget of Limington, Maine, High-Risk Cancer Genetics Patient

"No one ever wants to hear “You have cancer. I heard these words in September of 2020, but this is not where my journey—my family’s cancer journey, really—began. Our cancer story started when my sister Lori was diagnosed with breast cancer 30 years ago. She was in her early twenties at the time and she beat it. Then my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011.  Sadly, my mother lost her battle in 2013.

"Because of the two diagnoses in the family, it was recommended that our family undergo genetic testing. I was just 36 years old when we found out that I, along with Lori, my other sister Jill and my father we were all carriers of the BRCA II gene mutation. For those counting, that’s four out of six of us. My brother had chosen to not be tested.

"Whether you get tested and what you choose to do with the information is a very personal decision and there is no right or wrong answer, but knowledge is power.

"Hearing that you are a carrier for a gene mutation with a high risk of cancer (in our case ovarian, breast, prostate, and skin cancer) naturally brings about a series of fears and concerns—for yourself, but also for future generations because it can be passed on to your children, as well as their children and so on. I am thankful to know and have a care team at New England Cancer Specialists that has helped us with advice for supporting our children as we wrestle with the questions of the appropriate age to get testing and then how to prepare them for dealing with the information should they test positive. Thankfully, we have time before we need to cross that bridge.

"As for us adults, knowing we are BRCA II gene carriers also opened many options for monitoring and prevention. We all made personal decisions based on what was best for each of us. 

"Jill subsequently was diagnosed with and beat thyroid cancer, then chose surgical intervention to prevent a future breast cancer diagnosis. I immediately chose to have surgery to lower my risk for ovarian cancer. At that same time, I opted for enhanced monitoring for breast cancer and skin cancer. For many years this consisted of six-month visits with the breast care center, annual mammograms, annual breast MRIs, and annual skin checks with the dermatologist. Lori and Dad also chose enhanced monitoring. The enhanced screening eventually led to early detections of breast cancer for all three of us, including my dad.

"Today we are all survivors—Lori is actually a two-time survivor—because of the knowledge we gained from the genetic testing and the guidance we got from the New England Cancer Specialists genetic counselors to help us protect ourselves after we tested positive for the gene mutation. 

"If you have a family history of cancer, talk to your doctor about genetic testing. Genetic testing and New England Cancer Specialists, along with our family’s strength and will to fight, saved our lives. We are survivors, because we knew."

If you have a history of cancer in the family, take our Hereditary Cancer Risk Assessment.

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At New England Cancer Specialists, we know that each of our patients has a unique cancer journey, with unique challenges and stories. We believe that sharing these stories can inspire and support others, no matter what their diagnosis or where they are in the process.

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The Bourget Family

The Bourget Family: (L to R) Bob, Lori, Robyn and Jill (on video conference from Florida)

Jill Robyn and Lori Bourget

The Bourget sisters (L to R) Jill, Robyn, and Lori are all cancer survivors because they got genetic testing.

Bob and Patty Bourget

Bob and Patty Bourget. Cancer took Patty’s life, but not before it prompted the family to undergo genetic testing. Bob is a breast cancer survivor because of it.

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