Breast cancer survivor: Don’t dismiss your father’s side when looking at family history

Some people think you can only get breast cancer from your mother’s side of the family. But that’s a myth. Breast cancer can come just as easily from your father’s side. Want proof? The genetic mutation that led to my own stage III breast cancer diagnosis last summer came from my dad. Genetic testing confirmed it. And once we started digging into his family history, we discovered that breast cancer was everywhere. In fact, I’d always been told that his mother, who’d passed away before I was born, died of stomach cancer. Now, we believe she either had breast cancer or ovarian cancer, and it spread to her stomach. My triple-negative breast cancer diagnosis My own breast cancer diagnosis came as a pretty big surprise. It was June 2017, and I’d been feeling great. I’d just had my annual well-woman exam, but since I wasn’t quite 40 at the time, I hadn’t scheduled my first mammogram yet. A week or so later, I felt a large lump in my left armpit while taking a shower. It hadn’t been there when I’d seen my gynecologist, so I called him. He told me to come back in and we’d do the mammogram a few months early. Before I’d even left my doctor’s office, the radiologist said I needed an ultrasound. It turned out I had cancer in my left breast, and it had already spread to a nearby lymph node. But the original tumor was still so small, no one could feel it. So, that lymph node probably saved my life. Why I chose MD Anderson for my breast cancer treatment...

Meet chief medical officer Welela Tereffe, M.D.

Radiation oncologist Welela Tereffe, M.D., joined MD Anderson in 2005 as an assistant professor and most recently served as the deputy division head for Radiation Oncology. Now she has a new role — chief medical officer. In this role, she educates our health care providers about changes in the health care environment, and what they mean for MD Anderson and our patients. We interviewed Tereffe recently to find out more: the biggest challenges facing doctors today, why MD Anderson continues to inspire her and the most valuable lessons she has learned from our patients. What brought you to MD Anderson? A great boss, a diverse faculty and amazingly friendly people. I’ve stayed since 2005 for those same reasons, and because of the incredible sense of being on a mission together. Cancer has also impacted my own family. In 1955, my grandfather died in Ethiopia after three short weeks of what was probably liver cancer. In New York in the early 1980s, my uncle died of lymphoma after a few years of treatment. Three years ago in Virginia, my aunt was diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer and underwent 10 months of treatment. Today, she’s cancer-free and visiting family all over the globe: she attended a cousin’s wedding in Sweden, and we celebrated another cousin’s birthday in Las Vegas this fall. We didn’t lose her before her time – and I want to be a part of making that true for every family, everywhere. What does the chief medical officer do? The chief medical officer is responsible for engaging physicians and advanced practice providers in operational transformations across patient care, such...