The Good Fight: Woman Makes Tough Decision About Preventing Cancer

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, but how far would you go to prevent getting cancer?

“In October of 2011, I kept having sharp pains in the lower abdominal cavity where your appendix is. When I woke up in the hospital room, I knew there was more to it than just my appendix. They told me it was carcinoma,” Tammi Scruggs said.  She looked death in the eye.

“Two rounds of chemo, then I went through the hysterectomy, then four more rounds of chemo,”  Tammi recalled.   She fought her way back.

“September 24, 2012, I was told I was in remission,” Tammi said.  She was now an ovarian cancer survivor.

“During this past summer, they talked to me about being tested for the BRCA gene,” Tammi said.

“Did they give you your chance of getting cancer?” WHNT News 19 asked.

“They said it was between 80 and 87 percent chance I would develop breast cancer having already had ovarian cancer.  My doctor felt like it wasn’t a question of if, it was a question of when.  He said pray about it, you have to have peace with whatever decision you make, so I said schedule the surgery,” Tammi said.

On September 24, Tammi, cancer free, had an elective double mastectomy.

“Being at a stage 3C ovarian cancer, there’s a 85 percent chance that will come back.  I could have possibly been fighting both of them at the same time. I just wasn’t willing to take that risk,” Tammi said.

Assessing the risk of getting cancer is what genetic testing can provide. It can be pricey prevention, costing between $2,000 and $4,000. But did you know if you meet certain criteria, your insurance may cover the cost?

“If individuals meet criteria, insurance does a very good job of paying for the test in full. The caveat is meeting criteria,” said Amy George, a genetic counselor at Clearview Cancer Institute.

George said the testing looks at family history, age of diagnosis, along with a blood screening to get a blue print to map the risk of getting cancer.

“Not everyone needs genetic testing. We don’t want to over-test; it’s a waste of money and resources, but we do want to try to cast a net for the people that do qualify,” George said.

“Had I not been through what I been through already, I might not of been as adamant about doing it. I don’t know. All I know is, I’ve already been down that road, I don’t wanna go again,” Tammi said.

George, with CCI, said there are five red flags in determining a risk. If you have any *one* of these, your insurance may cover the cost of genetic testing.

Five Red Flags:

-A premenopausal breast cancer
-Ovarian cancer at any age
-Three or more family members with a history of breast cancer
-Breast cancer and ovarian cancer
-Bilateral Breast Cancer

This is not an exhaustive list, and if you are interested in learning more, talk to your doctor. You can learn more about genetic testing by contacting Clearview Cancer Institute.

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