Nightly News   |  October 18, 2013

When breast cancer runs in the family

Now that the nation’s largest medical testing company is offering tests for mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, it’s likely that growing numbers of people will choose to find out if they are carriers. NBC’s Dr. Nancy Snyderman speaks with a young woman who was diagnosed with breast cancer after the gene mutation was passed down from her grandfather.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> it was this past may that angelina jolie stunned the world when she revealed she'd had a double mastectomy and drew attention to the gene associated with the increase ed risk of breast cancer and ovarian cancer . now the biggest medical leave network, quest, said it will offer a test empowering more women and their doctors to make the best choice for treatment. our report tonight from chief medical editor dr. nancy snyderman .

>> we're going back home.

>> reporter: barbara hawkins was finishing treatment for breast cancer back in 2010 when she got a late night call from her daughter sarah .

>> i felt a lump in my right breast. i crumbled on my bathroom floor. i just started bawling. first person i call, my mom.

>> reporter: what went through your mind when you heard this over the phone?

>> i could not even believe it.

>> reporter: not only did sarah have stage three breast cancer , she tested positive for the braca gene, making her inherited cancer more aggressive. she got it from her father's side of the family. in fact, her grandfather is a breast cancer survivor. the 25-year-old newlywed was faced with tough decisions.

>> that kind of changed how i uh viewed my diagnose know sis.

>> reporter: how?

>> for treatment options. i just didn't know what i was going to do. but with the jep tick, you know, knowledge then i could make a better decision.

>> reporter: she chose an aggressive approach -- chemotherapy, double mastectomy, radiation and total breast reconstruction . her doctor says more women with the breast cancer gene are choosing this bold and comprehensive strategy to improve their odds.

>> they want to take control of some of the situation and say, i'm having to face this. i want to be in charge of saying this is my surgical choice.

>> reporter: sarah and her husband kirk also forged ahead to plan for a family.

>> i was diagnose nod one day. we were in the fertility clinic the next day.

>> reporter: the couple froze embryos before starting chemo chemothera chemotherapy. now she's just weeks away from having a baby girl . it's a joyful time.

>> i will see a beautiful grand daughter come into this world. i am just so excited.

>> reporter: for sarah , knowing her genetic history is giving her the power to create the life she's always dreamed of. dr. nancy snyderman , nbc news, seattle.