Woman who opted for mastectomy without cancer diagnosis says more awareness of genetic predisposition needed

Jeralyne Manweiler didn't have breast cancer, but she is genetically predisposed to it, so she decided to undergo a double mastectomy.

Jeralyne Manweiler tested positive for gene associated with significantly higher risk of breast cancer

Jeralyne Manweiler underwent a double mastectomy when she discovered she was genetically predisposed to breast cancer. Now, she's speaking about breast reconstruction awareness in Regina on Thursday evening. (Submitted by Jeralyne Manweiler)

Jeralyne Manweiler had not been diagnosed with breast cancer, but she has no second thoughts about her decision to undergo a double mastectomy. 

The Regina woman's mother was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2005. Her father has the BRCA2 gene — a gene associated with a significantly higher risk of breast and ovarian cancer in women, and breast cancer in men. 

Medical professionals explained that she was a 50 per cent risk for testing positive for the gene because her father has it. A family doctor referred her for genetic testing, and she also tested positive for the gene.

"My genes, essentially, won't suppress tumours as well as other people's," Manweiler told CBC Radio's The Morning Edition on Thursday.

That increased cancer risk left her with limited options. Manweiler could either get a mammogram or an MRI scan every six months to monitor any developments, or she could take chemotherapy treatments.

A third option was to choose to have her breast tissue, fallopian tubes and ovaries removed. Then once that was completed, there was the option for reconstruction surgery.

She opted to have the surgeries to remove her ovaries and Fallopian tubes in November 2018. She had a mastectomy and reconstructive surgery in May 2019.

Now, she wants to see the same kind of awareness around potential genetic predisposition to breast cancer as there is around breast cancer and survivors in general.

She will be speaking at a panel on breast reconstruction awareness, as part of Breast Cancer Awareness (BRA) Day, in Regina on Thursday evening.

"It has been a challenging journey. There's a lot of information out there, [but] there isn't as much awareness, I would say," she said.

But she says the peace of mind the surgery has brought her is worth it. She still has a risk of developing cancer, but it's now the same as anyone in general population.

"Psychologically and just physically, it changes you and there is a lot of those things you have to deal with, but it was the right choice for me," she said.

Her advice for those in similar situations is to take as much time as you need to come to a decision, but also to act as your own advocate.

"Ask all those questions that you need answers to, because the more questions you ask, the more participatory you are in the process," Manweiler said.

"Then you're going to be more at peace with whatever decision you make."

The Thursday panel Manweiler is speaking on takes place at the Regina DoubleTree Hilton, located on the corner of Victoria Avenue and Broad Street, starting at 5:30 p.m. There is no cost to attend, but registration is required.

With files from CBC Radio's The Morning Edition