Woman Sends in DNA To Find Out Ancestry, Ends Up Discovering She May Have Breast Cancer


For 30-year-old Sara Altschule, finding out more about her ancestral history was compelling.

She decided to send in her DNA for ancestral testing, and the results have turned her life upside down.

Altschule learned that she is Ashkenazi Jewish. She also discovered that she is BRCA positive, meaning she is living with an increased risk for breast cancer because of a gene mutation in her body.

While nobody in her immediate family has had breast cancer, an extended relative had battled both breast and ovarian cancer. Altschule learned she shared the exact same gene mutation that her relative, Susan, lived with.

Susan ultimately lost her life to ovarian cancer.

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As Altschule dug deeper into what it meant to be BRCA 2 positive, she was overwhelmed to learn that 69 to 72 percent of BRCA-positive women develop breast cancer by age 80.

“There are no real words to describe the feeling when you find out something like this at 30 years old,” Altschule wrote in an article for Bustle. “I can tell you that for me, it felt something like this: anxiety, anxiety, and more anxiety.”

The statistics, frightening as they were for Altschule to digest, left her feeling empowered. She could use the information to make some deeply personal decisions about her health.

“But beyond the statistics, I have the ability to beat cancer before it beats me,” Altschule wrote.

“Knowledge is power. And with this information, I am able to make powerful decisions that can ultimately save my life.”

Altschule described her life as a “roller-coaster” as she has weighed the varying options to decrease her risk for breast cancer. On Facebook, she explained her reasoning for making her story public:

“I hope to bring awareness to early detection and to help others understand what it means to be BRCA positive,” she wrote.

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However, not everyone may be ready to unlock the ancestral mysteries of their own lives. And for good reason — once you know, there’s no turning back.

“Finding out that you are BRCA positive is like opening Pandora’s box,” Altschule wrote. “You can’t unsee this information — and trust me, I’ve tried.”

But for all her bouts with anxiety and days of feeling overwhelmed, Altschule said it was worth it to find out. She’s always been an optimist and chooses to face her future with hope.

“And currently, my glass is filled with hope,” she wrote, “hope that I’m making decisions that may one day save my life.”

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A graduate of Grand Canyon University, Kim Davis has been writing for The Western Journal since 2015, focusing on lifestyle stories.
Kim Davis began writing for The Western Journal in 2015. Her primary topics cover family, faith, and women. She has experience as a copy editor for the online publication Thoughtful Women. Kim worked as an arts administrator for The Phoenix Symphony, writing music education curriculum and leading community engagement programs throughout the region. She holds a degree in music education from Grand Canyon University with a minor in eating tacos.
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