Know your breast cancer risk

CARLISLE, Pa. (WHTM) – Wendy Wolpert is a vibrant woman, the picture of health – but looks can be deceiving.

At 37 years old, below the recommended screening age and with no family history of breast cancer, she made a shocking find.

“I discovered a lump under my right arm,” she said.

Wolpert knew something wasn’t right. Her doctor ordered a mammogram and ultrasound. Both came back normal, but her doctor took a closer look and noticed something unusual.

“My surgeon called me when I was at home,” she said. “A couple of minutes later, my husband walked in the door and as soon as he saw the tears, he knew what it was.”

Wolpert was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer. It invaded her lymph nodes. The plan of attack was 12 rounds of chemotherapy, 30 radiation treatments, and surgery.

Because of Wolpert’s diagnosis at such an early age, genetic testing was recommended.

“It was positive for one of the newer genes called CHEK2, which is more of a breast and colon cancer,” she said.

Older sister Shelley Pinckney also tested positive for CHEK2, prompting a mammogram. It came back clear. Seven months later, an MRI was ordered and a spot was detected. Pinckney had an ultrasound and a biopsy.

“He does the biopsy and says he’s 98 percent sure it’s cancer,” Pinckney said. “Wow, you don’t ever want to hear those words. The first thing I thought of were my boys – my two teenage boys – my husband, sister, my parents.”

Her family is facing cancer again. Pinckney has already had a lumpectomy, and five chemotherapy treatments. Radiation treatments are still to come. She credits the genetic testing for catching her cancer early.

“I was just Stage 1. That is the blessing because of my sister,” she said. “Being a Christian and having a strong faith definitely helped me get through this.”

“Throughout my journey, I can say I never felt anger or questioned why,” Wolpert said. “I knew my answer would come some day. But when my sister was diagnosed, I felt so much anger and just towards the cancer itself.”

Wolpert turned her anger into action to fight the disease. She is teaming up with the American Cancer Society to raise awareness and funds for research, patient care, and advocacy.

“I want to educate people. I want my voice heard. I want my story told. Let’s do what we can do to stop this disease forever,” she said.

Wolpert and Pinckney have dense breast tissue, meaning their breasts have more dense tissue than fatty acid tissue, which makes cancer harder to find with a mammogram. It also puts them at a higher risk for breast cancer.

In Pennsylvania, doctors are required to tell you if you have dense breast so you can be treated accordingly.

Wolpert is taking part in the American Cancer Society’s Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk on Oct. 15. For more information or to sign up, click here.

Online: Dense Breast Information

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