In the summer of 2019, a genetic counselor at an academic healthcare facility saw a 39-year-old African American woman who had been recently diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma. A mammogram and subsequent biopsy of the lump she had felt on her left breast turned out to be triple-negative breast cancer, an aggressive type of tumor that doesn’t have estrogen or progesterone receptors and doesn’t overexpress HER2 protein. In the absence of these factors, triple-negative breast cancers are harder to treat and have limited treatment options. Her oncology team recommended chemotherapy to shrink her tumor and then surgery to remove it.
Because of her diagnosis of an aggressive cancer at a young age, her cancer care team referred her for genetic counseling. During the session, the genetic counselor and the patient discussed the extensive family history of breast cancer in the paternal side of her family.
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