‘Today’ Contributor Jill Martin Learns She Has Breast Cancer After Testing for Genetic Mutations

‘Today’ lifestyle contributor Jill Martin’s grandmother died from breast cancer, Her mother also had a double mastectomy after being diagnosed with stage 0 breast cancer in her late 40s. At the time, her mother was tested for genetic BRCA mutations, which came back negative. Martin thought this meant she didn’t need to test for it herself, but it turned out she was wrong, and this knowledge may have helped save her life.

This week, Martin announced that she’s been diagnosed with breast cancer, three weeks after undergoing genetic testing that informed her she was positive for a BRCA2 mutation. This mutation carries with it a higher risk of breast, ovarian, prostate, and other cancers.

She wrote on Today’s website, “Because of my family history, my doctors at Schaffer, Schonholz & Drossman in New York, and my general practitioner, Dr. Allison Spatz, told me: ‘You should just get genetic testing anyway to make sure.’ That suggestion saved my life. On June 20, I got a call from Dr. Susan Drossman telling me that I was BRCA2 positive. And as it turns out, my father is BRCA2 positive, too.”

After getting the results back, she had a sonogram and an MRI, which detected breast cancer. Though the diagnosis came just a few weeks ago, she says she’s sharing her story now to “shout from the rooftops” that people should ask their doctors if they should undergo genetic testing.

She wrote, “By the time I recover from my first surgery, I hope that many of you will know your results and can make proactive decisions with your doctors, families and loved ones. That is the silver lining to this mess for me. It is what is keeping me going and giving me strength.”

Martin says her father told her they will fight her diagnosis together.

Her treatment will involve a double mastectomy and reconstruction, with results from her first surgery determining what else she will need to undergo. As a preventive step due to her BRCA2 mutation, she will also have her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed, as she’s been informed she has a 20% higher risk of developing ovarian cancer.

Martin says loved ones have asked her what they can do for her. Her answer is that she wants people to get informed in a few areas: by everyone – both men and women – talking to their doctors about genetic testing, understanding that mammograms don’t always detect breast cancer and that MRIs and sonograms can be helpful further steps, and being aware that your children have a 50% chance of inheriting BRCA mutations if you have one.

Martin gave a nod to another celebrity whose story brought awareness to the issue.

She wrote, “There’s now a term known as the Angelina Jolie Effect. When Jolie announced she was getting preventative surgery in 2013 after losing her mother to breast and ovarian cancer and testing positive for the BRCA gene, the number of people who went and got tested in the next six months increased by 105%, according to the study. In addition, the number of people discovered to actually have the gene mutation among those who got tested also doubled. Do you know how many lives she likely helped save? My guess is a lot.”

To hear more of Martin’s story and her message, watch the video below.

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