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A family's history of breast cancer prompts a Boardman woman to stay a step ahead

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BOARDMAN, Ohio - "I think it is by no coincidence that one of my very first memories ever of my life would be connected to breast cancer," said Melissa Cherne of Boardman.

Cherne and her sister, Karen McCallum, were just little girls when their aunt died of breast cancer, a cancer that years later would be found in their mother.

"Me watching my mom get the biopsy and being told she has cancer is a numbing experience," McCallum said. "And how she dealt with it helped her to be able to help her daughter through the process."

A process that for Cherne, began in 2010 at what was supposed to be a time of celebration.

"So, on November 1st, my mother got her three year clearance and on the very next day I got diagnosed," Cherne said.

Melissa was just 33, the same age that her aunt was when she was diagnosed.

"I immediately consulted a genetic counselor because it was evident," Cherne said.

However, results from genetic testing proved otherwise. Melissa did not carry mutated versions of the BRCA 1 and 2 genes, the genes associated with hereditary breast and ovarian cancers.

However, counselors told the family they had to be carrying some other genetic marker which is all Karen needed to hear. In an effort to avoid another family setback, she opted for a preventative bi-lateral mastectomy.

"It is not fun to watch your loved one being sick, throwing up, knowing they are in agony. This is just a huge weight off my shoulders," McCallum said.

"Everyone has said how courageous I am and how strong I have been to beat it, but I think it is very courageous on her count because she beat the fight before it beat her," Cherne said.

Karen's surgery took place just a couple of months after her 33rd birthday.

While doctors didn't find cancer, they did discover tissue in her breasts that has the ability to host cancer.

Now, whatever people choose to do with their genetic test results is up to them. Counselors say for high risk patients, mammograms and breast MRI's are recommended annually. Medications can also help reduce the risk.

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