BRICK TOWNSHIP, N.J. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — They look alike, sound alike, and may even have the same mannerisms. Identical twins also often have the uncanny ability to read each other’s minds. But for two New Jersey sisters, the similarities didn’t end there. Ivanhoe has more on their very unique cancer diagnosis.
Forty-three-year-old Meagan McCallum and Courtney Werner have been best friends since birth.
“We’ve always been close. If we dress the same, we were thrilled,” shared Meagan and Courtney.
But nothing could have prepared them for the health scare both would face. Meagan’s doctor found a lump in her breast last year that was cancerous. Weeks later, Meagan had the cancer removed, and then Courtney discovered a lump in her breast.
“I had no idea she felt a lump in the same exact spot. When I saw the incision, I said, that’s where your lump was? And I showed her the exact spot I pointed to, and she just went pale as a ghost,” continued Meagan and Courtney.
In the past, scientists have studied twins for insights into cancer. The Nordic Twin study followed 300,000 twins and found if one identical twin developed breast cancer, the other twin had a 28 percent chance of developing cancer.
“What could also be happening, potentially? Courtney and Meagan do have a hereditary breast cancer syndrome and we simply don’t know the gene yet,” stated Yolanda Tammaro, MD, a breast surgeon at Hackensack Meridian Health.
Doctors determined that neither sister needed chemotherapy. Both had radiation and said the hardest part was watching the other go through treatment, followed by telling their kids.
“I got it out of my system months ago, but my kids were so positive, and they took it really well because she did so great,” smiled Meagan and Courtney.
The sisters did have one other similarity that impacted their diagnoses. Both had dense breast tissue and doctors used ABVS ultrasound to detect the abnormalities. Also one other note, you may have noticed some of the cousins in the report looked alike. Meagan’s seven-year-old boys, Paul and Neil, are twins.
Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Producer; Roque Correa, Editor; and Kirk Manson, Videographer.
DOUBLE TROUBLE: TWIN BREAST CANCER
BACKGROUND: Twins offer a natural study population for genetic epidemiology because genetically identical twins have the same DNA, and fraternal twins or nonidentical twins, share half of their segregating genes. If heritable factors play a role in the origin of a disease, disease genetics should be greater in identical twin pairs than in fraternal twin pairs. Despite the large amount of genetic information that exists in twin populations, twins have been used only to a limited extent in cancer epidemiology.
THE STUDY ON TWINS AND BREAST CANCER: A large study of twins has found that having a twin sibling diagnosed with cancer creates an excess risk for the other twin to develop any form of cancer. Among the 23 different types of cancer studied, an excess familial risk was seen for almost all the cancers, including common cancers such as breast and prostate cancer, but also more rare cancers such as testicular cancer, head and neck cancer, ovarian, and stomach cancer. The study also showed that in twin pairs where both developed cancer, each twin often developed a different type of cancer, which suggests that, in some families, there is a shared increased risk of any type of cancer. Large twin studies can help scientists assess the relative contribution of inherited factors in cancer and characterize familial cancer risk by considering the genetic relatedness of identical and fraternal twins. The researchers looked at more than 200,000 twins, both identical and fraternal, and the results were that one in three people in the study developed cancer over the course of a lifetime. Cancer was diagnosed in both twins for 3,316 of the pairs, in whom the same cancer was diagnosed among 38 percent of the identical twins and 26 percent of the fraternal twins. (Source: https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2016/01/twin-study-estimates-familial-risks-of-23-different-cancers/)
NEW BREAST CANCER MUTATION FINDINGS COULD CHANGE RISK MANAGEMENT: New findings of breast cancer gene mutations in women who have no family history of the disease offer a new way of estimating risk and could change the way in which these women are advised on risk management. Those at The New England Journal of Medicine is broadening and validating the genomic panel to help screen women at risk for breast cancer in the future. Observations from those at The New England Journal of Medicine suggest that for now, the management of most women with either mutation will consist of screening alone, starting with MRI at age 40 years. The American Society of Breast Surgeons (ASBrS) is currently recommending that all patients with breast cancer as well as those at high risk for breast cancer be offered genetic testing. Members of the ASBrS follow the National Comprehensive Cancer Network guidelines when they identify carriers of a pathogenic variant.
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