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3 generations of women take a courageous step in their fight against a deadly disease

TROY, Mich. – They knew about their family history and decided to go for genetic testing -- that’s when they found out they were carriers of a very rare cancer gene.

Carolyn Mrowczynski knows her family history inside and out. Her mother, Cheryl Ray Mrowczynski and Cheryl’s grandmother both had breast cancer. At 40-years-old, Carolyn Mrowczynski made a decision.

“My family is just dotted with so much breast cancer in it,” Carolyn Mrowczynski said. “I had a preventative mastectomy because of my family history. I remember the doctor told my mom. It wasn’t a matter of if she got it. It was a matter of when she got it. And, I thought. ‘Well, that’s probably my case too.’"

That eventually led to another big step.

“I had a gene testing done and I tested positive for a mutation that can lead to breast cancer. This past spring I had to have a lumpectomy because they found something. Luckily, it wasn’t cancer," Mrowczynski said. “After all that, I’m like, ‘you know what? This isn’t worth it.’ Like, I just have to have the surgery done and be able to live a normal life without having to worry about ever having breast cancer.”

Dr. Deborah Ruark, the director of the Beaumont Breast Care Center in Troy performed the surgery. Ruark praised Mrowczynski’s choice to be proactive instead of reactive.

“Carolyn came to see me. She tested positive also for the same ataxia-telangiesctasia mutated gene mutation,” Ruark said. “Her risk was not quite as high as her mother’s was but still significant because she also has nine relatives with breast cancer.”

“It was a very easy decision to make. I mean, my mom had gone through the exact same thing,” Mrowczynski said. “Two of her three sisters have had breast cancer. Her mother did. Numerous aunts, cousins, and, so you know, that’s my blood too.”

Knowing that her mother and her aunt both had preventative mastectomies and recovered well, she decided to go forward with the procedure.

Mrowczynski’s aunt, Terri St. Onge, said in their family’s case that knowledge is power.

“I really think they should make genetic counseling and testing very available,” said St. Onge. “It’s something that everybody should go through. Even, if you don’t know what your family history is. They should make the prophylactic, mastectomies and reconstruction something that is readily available."

“Well, I admire Carolyn and her mother because they’re making a choice and being proactive to live and be there for their families,” Ruark said. “And, giving them a legacy of bravery and women can do this.”

Ruark said Mrowczynski reduced her risk of breast cancer by more than 90% and is actually at a lower risk than the average woman.

For more information on Ruark and the Breast Care Center, click here.

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