Two years ago, the day before Christmas, Nancy Dallas found a lump in her breast.
She was diagnosed with not only Stage 2 breast cancer but that she also has the BRCA 2 gene. She later found out her five great aunts died from breast cancer, but no one ever talked about it.
"My grandmother died at 52, my uncles died at 50, 52 of all types of cancer, they never told us," Nancy said.
The National Cancer Institute says 45 percent of women who inherit a harmful BRCA2 mutation will develop breast cancer by age 70.
Nancy told her family right away.
"I got the word out to my siblings and children to make sure that they got tested."
Her younger sister, who had a lump in her breast that she admits she ignored, went in for tests. At age 36, Betsy Decker was diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer and is also a carrier of the BRCA2 gene.
"My first PET scan, I had had 26 spots all over, and I think they gave me like six months to live. I think the BRCA2 gene saved me because that is what I am getting at," Betsy said.
"Not all breast cancer is genetic, but when you start seeing a real family history, bring that to your primary care doc. In reality, having the gene does increase your risk and you don't know when this is going to happen, and it is important to be aware that there are a lot of things that we can offer," said Dr. Lori Medeiros, medical director of Rochester General Hospital's Breast Cancer Center.
Genetic testing is becoming more affordable and accessible. There is more widespread insurance coverage to use health care as a preventative tool.
"We have high risk screenings tests that can identify people who are at extraordinary high risk of not only breast cancer but other cancers as well," said Kimberly Provenzano, Lipson Cancer Center nurse practitioner.
Nancy's 31-year-old daughter now knows she has the BRCA2 gene, so with help from genetic counselors at Rochester General Hospital Breast Cancer Center she is deciding on treatments.
Betsy is in remission and says because her sister talked about cancer and genetic testing, she saved her life.