If you suspect you or someone you know may be at risk for cancer — such as a family history of cancer or membership in an at-risk ethnic population — you may want to learn more about genetic screening.

Adventist Health St. Helena is committed to helping patients understand their risks by offering genetic screening at each of our primary care and women's care offices. Call (707) 967-7550 to learn more.

Below, learn about how genetic screening helped Brenda stay AHEAD of hereditary cancer.

Brenda's Story


Brenda’s journey began when she visited her gynecologist, Dr. Candace Westgate, for an exam. Dr. Westgate took Brenda’s family history, which highlighted the fact that Brenda’s paternal grandmother had breast cancer and her paternal aunt had ovarian cancer. After analyzing her family history, Dr. Westgate recommended genetic testing.

“It was positive for BRCA1 and I didn’t believe it. It took me about a year to deal with it because I was in quite a bit of denial. Once I came to terms with it, I realized I was lucky that I did not have cancer so I had the luxury of time. However, I was told to get treatment before I did,” says Brenda. As Brenda’s husband states, “Now it was time to come to grips with the reality.”

Brenda’s risk of having breast cancer during her lifetime was 87 percent and her risk of ovarian cancer was 40-60 percent. After professional counseling with Dr. Westgate, Brenda and her husband determined that a prophylactic double mastectomy was the best preventive option. “These numbers were just too high to live with. I am really lucky because I was able to make decisions based on having these statistics,” Brenda says.

Three months after Brenda’s double mastectomy, she had her hysterectomy and oophorectomy. “The impact on my life was extremely positive. It was a tough decision, but I made it because it was the best thing for me; it was the best thing for my family. I can live my life and I am at peace. And even more important is being a part of my family’s life and to be able to watch my boys grow.”

“I am happy to share my story because there are a lot of misconceptions about the diagnosis, the treatment options and the outcomes. Having providers that are experts in hereditary cancer management is invaluable.”

Visit our website to learn more about the Adventist Health Early All-Around Detection (AHEAD) program, or make an appointment in our Napa or St. Helena location today (707) 967-7550