'It May Have Saved My Life': Understanding The Power Of Genetic Counseling

Understanding your hereditary risk for illness can be scary. But for Erin, a Westchester resident and mother of two boys, that knowledge was also potentially lifesaving thanks to Northern Westchester Hospital.

Erin shares her story of testing positive for the BRCA gene mutation. Photo Credit: Northern Westchester Hospital

Concerned about an elevated cancer risk, Erin voluntarily spoke with a genetic counselor through Northern Westchester Hospital's Genetic Counseling Program. After a detailed education and evaluation session, Erin was diagnosed as BRCA+. Having this gene mutation meant she was significantly more susceptible to breast and ovarian cancer, and had a likelihood of passing the mutation along to her children.

"Knowing you’re BRCA+ doesn’t mean you have to act on it," said Erin. However, for her own health and safety, Erin decided to undergo elective surgeries to avoid any possible complications. "All my Northern Westchester Hospital surgeons were incredibly expert and caring," she said. "Following my double mastectomy, the pathology report showed that I had three early-stage cancerous tumors, but hallelujah, they were out of me." 

According to Nancy Cohen, a certified genetic counselor at Northern Westchester Hospital, Erin was a prime example of the benefits of genetic testing. "Because she was able to understand her risk and take steps to reduce it, she was actually able to identify cancer at an early stage, preventing her from potentially having to undergo more extensive treatment."

Erin's children will also be able to protect themselves in the future. "My boys may have this genetic mutation. They can have genetic testing and make sure that they don't carry this onto their children," she said.

Watch Erin's full story in the video above.

For more information or to schedule an appointment with a genetic counselor, call (914) 242-7649. Visit Northern Westchester Hospital's website for answers to several frequently asked questions about genetic testing.