After a breast cancer diagnosis, twins become genetic testing advocates

Twin sisters Ana and Roxana Lopez were only 17 when their mother died of breast cancer. Over the next eight years, several of their aunts and female cousins would also be diagnosed with breast or ovarian cancer. But it wasn’t until Roxana received her own breast cancer diagnosis in August 2015 that the common thread became clear. “At age 25, breast cancer was just not something I thought would happen to me,” Roxana says. “But shortly after I was diagnosed with stage II invasive ductal carcinoma in my left breast, I underwent genetic counseling. And I tested positive for the BRCA1 mutation.” An obligation to share test results As an aspiring nurse and an MD Anderson employee at the time, Roxana knew how significant that test result was. “It not only explained why I got cancer at such a young age, but also my family history,” she says. “I felt obligated to share my results so that other family members could be tested, too, and consider taking preventive measures.” It turns out that all three of Roxana’s siblings — including her two older brothers — also have the BRCA1 mutation. For Roxana and her twin sister, that meant choosing to have double mastectomies. “I opted to have a bilateral mastectomy to reduce my future breast cancer risk, which is significantly higher due to the BRCA1 mutation,” Roxana says. “Considering my family history, I regret not learning about it sooner. I wonder now if my cancer could have been prevented.” “There’s a chance that I might never develop breast cancer, even without surgery,” Ana adds. “So I could’ve opted for...