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Staring Down Cancer

The blessing of sisters

Two sisters istock.jpg

I've talked before about the blessing of sisters.  I have been blessed with five!

They are my comfort, my loves, my support team, and my best friends.  When I was first diagnosed with cancer, my fourth thought was of my sisters, right behind my two children and my husband.

Could they get breast cancer?  I knew that there was work being done to identify a gene for breast cancer – namely the BRCA gene.  The public did not know much about it at that time, but I learned that if you carried the gene, your chances of being diagnosed with breast cancer were much greater.  Those who had breast cancer and were told about the gene often didn’t test for it; insurance did not cover it, and the cost was about $5,000.  It is now covered by insurance.  

I tested negative for the BRCA gene.  That was good news for my daughter and my sisters.

If you have breast cancer and you have sisters, you need to know about the Sister Study.  The study is ongoing and is being run by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEH). (NIEH is one of the National Institutes of Health, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.) From 2004 to 2009, more than 50,000 sisters of women diagnosed with breast cancer have joined this landmark research effort.  

Because sisters share the same environment and genes, it makes sense that by studying sisters, there would be a greater chance of identifying risk factors that might help us to understand the causes of breast cancer.  

We can thank the Women's Congressional Caucus for this brilliant idea, as well as all the community-based organizations that tracked the sisters down.  The group of sisters have agreed to be studied for 10 years.  The study has collected massive amounts of data, which will help researchers study the complexity of breast cancer in ways that have not been deeply studied – such as how the environment may contribute to the disease.

I believe so many answers will come from studying the environment.  This is a worthwhile path to follow.

Thank you to my sisters Colleen, Kathleen, Laura, Lucy and Bridget.  I love you all so very much.  And, thank you to all the other sisters out there – all 50,000 of you!

This is sisterly love at its best!

For more information, you can contact the Sister Study directly by phone at 877-4-SISTER (877-474-7837) or by email at update@sisterstudy.org.

Noreen Fraser is living with Stage IV metastatic breast cancer. She is the Founder and CEO of the Noreen Fraser Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to funding groundbreaking women's cancer research. To stay in touch with Noreen, please 'LIKE' The Noreen Fraser Foundation on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.  Noreen can be contacted via email at noreen@noreenfraserfoundation.org.