MAGENTA free genetic testing helps woman avoid cancer

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Maybe you've tried - or 23 and Me to get a glimpse into your past - but what if you could do something similar to predict your future?     

Genetic testing can make that possible, it can help you see cancer long before it strikes - and right now it is easier and more accessible than ever.

Elizabeth White is 33 years old, a mom, a wife, an advocate for women with ovarian cancer - like her own mother.

"She was diagnosed with stage three ovarian cancer - she had been sick for quite a while and it was just figuring out what was wrong," Elizabeth said.

What was wrong would prove deadly - Elizabeth's mother, Barbara Bauer, died in 2006 at the age of 51.

Elizabeth was only in college but knew then she had to help others - eventually becoming the executive director of the Michigan Ovarian Cancer Alliance.  Her first day on the job was last September and she decided to get tested.

"I signed up and thought I am the executive director I have to do something," she said. "And I am going to be preaching to women to get tested - I need to get tested as well."

Studies show that 15 percent of ovarian cancer cases are due to DNA changes called genetic mutations.

Genetic testing - normally very involved and very expensive - was, and is, available for free - through the Magenta Study which stands for Make Genetic Testing Accessible. 

Elizabeth logged on to the Magenta website, she filled out a questionnaire, learned that she qualified and talked to a genetic counselor. She got the saliva kit in the mail and took the test from the comfort in her own home. 

"My first day on the job was September 26th and the 27th I signed up for this trial and December 14th I found out the news about the gene mutation," she said.

It was news she was not expecting. Elizabeth has the BRCA 2 genetic mutation - and with it a 75 percent chance of developing breast cancer and a 20 percent chance of developing ovarian cancer - like her mom.

"I was shocked when I found out and I was hysterical for a couple days," Elizabeth said. "My mom always said you got a day for a pity parties when something bad happens. And then the next day I knew what I was going to do."

Believing her own mother was sending her a sign, this mom decided to have a double mastectomy - that's coming up in September. Next year she'll have her fallopian tubes and ovaries removed all to prevent what she knows all too well - a diagnosis of cancer.

"I am so lucky I found this out before it turned into cancer, there's so many people that don't," Elizabeth said.

Elizabeth is grateful for the advances in medicine and specifically in genetic testing.

She knows her own daughter, Emma, has a 50 percent chance of having inherited the genetic mutation as well - and she knows her own mother might still be alive today if she had known her genes - and known her risk.

"If my mom would have known this, she would have had the surgeries in a heartbeat," Elizabeth said. "She's been gone 12 years; she's missed graduations and weddings, grandchildren. It would not have been a thought in her mind and I knew what I had to do for my family.

"It's not just knowing your family history - it's knowing your genes too - and this can help you predict the future so you can take measures so that you don't get cancer."

The MAGENTA study is out of MD Anderson Cancer Center in Texas and they are eager to hear from people here in metro Detroit. This is for people with a family history of breast and ovarian cancer.

MAGENTA tests for 19 different genetic mutations - you can do it all from the comfort of your home.

For more information, including the questionnaire to see if you qualify for the free test go to