Bismarck Woman Faces Down Breast Cancer - - Bismarck/Minot/Williston/Dickinson-KXNEWS,ND

Bismarck Woman Faces Down Breast Cancer

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A double mastectomy -- when you don't even have cancer?  Actress Angelina Jolie shocked many this week by doing just that.  How common is this and how concerned should we be?

"Emotionally, you face your own mortality," says Ginger Rondeau.

Ginger Rondeau is a cancer survivor.  She underwent a double mastectomy -- despite having cancer in only one breast.  "I have just been tired of being poked and prodded and keeping going through this whole process over and over again.  And I just chose to have them both taken at the same time."  Dr. Aaron Chalmers, a surgeon of Mid Dakota Clinic in Bismarck says, "To consider going through an operation on a side that maybe doesn't have cancer yet, it's a big thing for people to consider."

In Ginger's case, she did not have a family history of cancer.  So unlike actress Angelina Jolie, who underwent a double mastectomy after testing positive for BRCA -- a genetic mutuation, which makes the chances of eventually developing breast cancer very high -- Ginger was not particularly at-risk. 

While experts say the Jolie situation is rare, much more common is the incidence of cancer among the general female population, such as Ginger.  "If I go to the mall right now, and hold eight women -- all of them are normal, feeling good, no problems -- one of them she has breast cancer and didn't know," says Dr. Tarek Dufan, M.D., Radiation Oncologist and Medical Director at Bismarck Cancer Center.

In fact, Ginger recently learned several cousins also have breast cancer, which seems to be unrelated to BRCA.  "We've had three first cousin girls on my Dad's side -- two of them in their 40s, me in my 60s, that have had breast cancer.  One of them did the BRCA test and she was negative for it.  So it's just a whole mixed bag of what's going on."

And the risk is not limited to females.  Breast cancer, as well as the same mutated gene that turned up in Jolie, can also turn up -- in men.  "Men need to be vigilant also.  There are people walking around Bismarck, and elsewhere, that have family members who are men who had breast cancer and they know that.  Those are people that need to be tested," says Dr. Chalmers.

The good news is physicians say health care providers here in North Dakota are obtaining particularly good results.  "Our percentage in terms of outcome related of the treatments, we are as good as bigger hospitals," says Dr. Dufan.

But as Ginger says, it takes being personally vigilant to tackle cancer.  "I would advise monthly breast checks.  Do your yearly mammogram, and get on top of this."


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