Taking charge, preventing cancer with surgery

By Erika Mahoney

May 24, 2013 Updated May 27, 2013 at 12:38 PM EST

Binghamton, NY (WBNG Binghamton) What if you were almost certain what could take your life? Wendy Cubic knew.

A candidate for deadly disease, Cubic flipped the odds in her favor by taking drastic steps.

"I felt like a guillotine had been lifted," Cubic said. "I really don't even think about it anymore. Before, I thought about it all the time."

When Cubic's sister was diagnosed with breast cancer, doctors realized her entire family had a strong history of the disease.

"She was 48. The doctor looked at me and said, 'probably be a good idea for you to get tested as well.'"

Doctors say testing for mutated BRAC1 and BRAC2 genes -- which increase a person's risk for breast and ovarian cancer -- is becoming more popular.

Minimally Invasive Gynecologic Surgeon r. James Dana Kondrup of Lourdes Hospital says every woman -- and man -- owe to themselves.

"Don't be afraid to get tested," Kondrup said. "Get the knowledge that you need and get tested and find out whether you are positive or negative."

Cubic and her sister had the strength to get tested, and both tested positive for BRAC1. For Cubic's sister, it was too late for preventive surgery. But Cubic had options.

After watching her sister battle cancer, she decided to take steps to drastically lower her odds of getting cancer, from around 90 percent to less than 10 percent.

"My sister kept saying, 'oh you're so brave, because you made the decision. I don't know if I could have done that.' I said absolutely not, I look at it the complete opposite. I had my warrior go before me."

Four years ago, Cubic underwent the procedure and the reconstructive surgery at the same time.

After struggling with the side effects of her implants for two years, she headed back to the hospital to try a different reconstructive surgery.

"I was very fortunate and lucky to find a world renowned surgeon in New York City, Dr. Robert J. Allan. He was the man who invented a procedure where he uses your own tissue. He does not cut any muscle so it's much less invasive and much less recovery because there's no muscle damage. He used my thighs to re-create my breasts for me."

It was an option undergoing her prophylactic mastectomy and oophorectomy allowed her to research and explore, because she had the time.

Kondrup says these procedures have saved lives and the recently increased awareness will help save more.

"It helps when a movie star (Angelina Jolie) comes out and makes everybody aware of something," Dr. Kondrup said. "Once people get tested and see where the gene is tracking in the family, it save lives. And Angelina Jolie has already saved lives, by making people aware to go get tested."

Binghamton Jewish Community Center will be hosting the program "Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer: Are You at Risk?" on June 4 at 500 Clubhouse Road in Vestal.

The program is free and open to the public.

Reservations are required and can be made at (607) 724-2417.