Understanding My Risk to Help Others
Marleah’s family history of breast cancer was her motivation for pursuing a career where she can be an advocate for herself and others at high risk. At 27, Marleah explains that understanding her risk has been an emotional journey, but also a good journey.
For Marleah, breast cancer at a young age runs in the family. When Marleah was 8 years old, she watched her mother, then 38, go through treatment for breast cancer. Not long after, Marleah’s aunt was diagnosed with breast cancer. Her maternal grandmother and great-grandmother also had been diagnosed with breast cancer.
In 2010, Marleah’s mom decided to get tested for a BRCA gene mutation to better understand if their family history of breast cancer could be associated with the mutation. She learned that she is positive for a BRCA2 gene mutation.BRCA stands for BReast CAncer gene. Any changes, called “mutations,” in these two genes (BRCA1 and BRCA2) can raise breast cancer risk. She told Marleah about her results, and Marleah knew that meant she had a 50% chance of having the same gene mutation.
Marleah waited several years, until she was ready, to get genetic testing. She learned that she is also positive for the BRCA2 mutation. To manage her breast and ovarian cancer risk, Marleah currently undergoes surveillanceScreening for breast cancer more often than recommended for women who have average risk of getting breast cancer. and makes healthy lifestyle choices like maintaining a healthy weight, exercising, and limiting her alcohol intake. Because BRCA2 gene mutations are associated with a higher risk for melanoma, the deadliest kind of skin cancer, Marleah also visits a dermatologist every year for a skin exam. She enjoys outdoor activities while protecting her skin.
Her personal experience continues to inspire her professional and volunteer work, where she is an advocate for herself and for others at high risk. She credits her determination to be involved with her mother’s breast cancer treatment to helping her cope with her own high risk of cancer.
Marleah lives in Florida with her husband. She works as an assistant professor in health communications, and her experience has inspired her current research. She also volunteers with Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered (FORCE). Marleah’s career and volunteer work show her desire to help other previvors.A person who has a higher risk of getting cancer, but has not been diagnosed with the disease.