When Claudine Basile saw her gynecologist for an annual checkup a month after turning 35, he wished her a happy birthday and wrote a prescription for her first mammogram. “I said, ‘Why? I don’t have breast cancer in my family,’ ” recalls Basile, a hotel executive in Boca Raton, FL. Her physician explained it was just to establish a baseline, so she scheduled the screening for later in the week. It turned out to be anything but routine. “One mammogram quickly turned into three, followed by an ultrasound and an MRI,” says Basile. A few days later, her doctor delivered the shocking diagnosis: ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), an early, noninvasive form of breast cancer.
Basile consulted two breast surgeons, both of whom said she was “lucky” because her cancer was small, self-contained, and would require only a lumpectomy. But before moving forward with the surgery, Basile sought the advice of a physician friend. Knowing she had lost her father three years earlier to pancreatic and liver cancer—two diseases linked to the breast cancer genes BRCA 1 and 2— her friend suggested Basile meet with a genetic counselor to see if she was predisposed to a higher risk of breast cancer. Three weeks after getting tested, Basile got her answer: She was BRCA-positive.