McEnany's Details Pre-Cancer Battle in New Book
- In her new book, For Such a Time as This: My Faith Journey Through the White House and Beyond, FOX News host and former White House Press Secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, writes about her family’s history with breast cancer.
- McEnany learned she had the BRCA gene mutation after she underwent genetic testing after her mom’s 2009 preventative double mastectomy.
- A mastectomy is the surgical removal of one or both breasts.
McEnany details her early awareness of cancer, writing, “I grew up knowing that my family had a history of breast cancer. Eight women in my family—mostly aunts and cousins on my mom’s side—had been plagued with this horrible illness. Some were even in their young twenties.”
“My mom tested positive for the BRCA2 genetic mutation, putting her at a roughly 84 percent chance of breast cancer…”
The Fox News host said her mom had testing for the BRCA gene, which led to a mastectomy (McEnany eventually got a mastectomy too). “During my senior year at Georgetown, a doctor suggested that my mom test for the BRCA gene. ‘Based on your family history, I can almost assure you that you have a genetic mutation,’ the doctor told her.”
She continues, “She was right. My mom tested positive for the BRCA2 genetic mutation, putting her at a roughly 84 percent chance of breast cancer and a 27 percent chance of ovarian cancer.”
“Although my mom did not have breast cancer,” she writes, “she had an extraordinarily high chance of getting it. She knew exactly what she wanted to do. Despite the concerns of some in my family, she decided to get a preventative double mastectomy. At the time, the measure seemed radical to many.”
“Her surgery came before Angelina Jolie had shared that she carried a similar genetic mutation, opting to get the same procedure as my mother. My mom’s decision to have this surgery brought her chances of breast cancer close to zero. I knew that day, at the age of twenty-one, that I, too, wanted to test for the BRCA mutation.”
McEnany writes how she had a fifty-fifty chance of having the gene, too, just like her mother. She took the test and her doctor called and told her, she writes, “‘You’ve tested positive for the BRCA2 genetic mutation’,” my doctor told me. Tears began to pour down my cheeks as I walked downstairs to share my diagnosis with my family.”
She describes how her life circumstances at the time impacted how she decided to proceed. “Initially, I set out to get the same surgery as my mom. I wanted to do it fairly quickly. Within the year, I had hoped. But I was single at the time. I wasn’t sure what dating post-mastectomy would be like, and the unknown worried me.”
“Knowing that my risk of breast cancer and ovarian cancer really did not start to rise until the age of thirty, instead of surgery, I resolved to engage in routine surveillance,” she writes. “Every six months, I would go to Moffitt Cancer Center and receive either a mammogram or an MRI. Mammograms were often followed by an ultrasound since it was hard to see through my dense breast tissue.”
On May 1, 2018, nearly ten years after her doctor told her she had the genetic mutation, she decided to have the same surgery as her mother. “A big reason I had the confidence to make this decision,” she writes, “was because I had found a supportive husband in Sean Gilmartin.”
“We had been married six months earlier. He knew my plans to have a preventative double mastectomy, and he could not have been more reassuring, promising me that he would love me no matter what.”
What is the BRCA Gene Mutation?
The BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations elevate a person’s risk of developing certain cancers, like breast and ovarian cancer. If you, like McEnany, have a history of breast cancer in your family, it’s worth doing genetic testing to see if you have this gene mutation.
In an earlier interview, Dr. Rebecca Arend, an Associate Scientist at the University of Alabama-Birmingham, explains this genetic mutation, saying, “What a BRCA mutation is it’s a defect in your ability to repair a double-strand break. If you think about DNA being a double helix, that we’ve all learned about in basic science, if you have a single strand break, a PARP enzyme is needed to repair that single-strand break.”
“If you have a PARP inhibitor, then you can’t repair that single-strand break. And if you have a single strand break that’s not repaired, that actually leads to a double-strand break. So when both of the arms of the DNA helix are broken, then your body has normal mechanisms for repairing that.”
“One of them is called homologous recombination,” she says. “And that’s your body’s natural way of repairing that break. But if you have a BRCA mutation, you actually cannot repair that break.”
What is a Mastectomy?
A mastectomy is the surgical removal of one or both breasts. It is most commonly used as a treatment for breast cancer, and it is also used as a preventative measure for women who, like McEnany, have an elevated risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer.
In an earlier interview, Dr. Ann Partridge, an Oncologist at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, explains the decision-making process when it comes to determining whether or not a person should have a mastectomy. She says, “So when I talk to a woman who comes to me and she has breast cancer, I evaluate what the standard options for treatment for her are,” she says.
“[Treatment options] typically include cutting out the cancer– which is either a lumpectomy if you can get it all with just a little scooping around of the area that’s abnormal, or a mastectomy. For some women [a mastectomy means] taking the full breast because sometimes these lesions can be very extensive in the breast.”
“And I’ll talk to a woman about that and I’ll say these are two main options or the big fork in the road,” says Dr. Partridge.