About one in eight women will develop breast cancer. But only about five percent of women have metastatic, or stage four breast cancer, when they are first diagnosed. This type of advanced cancer means it has spread throughout the body.
Brooke Schmaltz was recently diagnosed with stage four breast cancer and is sharing her story to help spread awareness.
"I did not know there was a possibility you could come out at stage 4 metastatic breast cancer," said Schmaltz. When she saw changes in her breast last year, she knew something wasn't right. Mammograms and ultrasounds didn't detect it.
"I always had a feeling that it was genetic and that someday i would get it." Brooke's mom, Carol, is a 17 year survivor and for the past 17 years they've walked together at various events in our community.
At this year's Steppin' Out in Pink event, Brooke is walking with a different purpose. "I'm used to my mom getting the special parking pass so this year I will be able to join her and meet other breast cancer survivors and fighters."
"It will be bitter sweet walking, instead of reflecting and thinking about my mother, husbands grandmother, and my aunt who also had it breast cancer. This year also thinking of myself and my future."
There is something that people with cancer can do to asses other family members risk.
Genetic testing is useful when a pattern exists so family members can consider options to minimize their risk.
"There's genetics that you inherit from your family members, your parents then there's genetics to the cancer itself the actual tumor that has formed and those change rapidly consistently over time and that's where we struggle with a cure or even changing treatments. The tumor genetics can change but what you were born with stays the same overtime and so that's going to get confusing for the general public and patients we're looking at genetics but in two completely different ways," said Becky Pabst, Genetics Counselor at Gundersen Health System.
While most cancers are not hereditary, breast, colon, uterine, ovarian and some others can be. Pabst said only about five or ten out of one hundred cancer patients will actually carry a genetic cause for their cancer.
Gundersen Medical Foundation's 12th annual Steppin' Out in Pink will take place this Saturday, Sept. 9 at Gundersen's La Crosse Campus. The opening ceremony will take place at 8:45 a.m. on the south end of Gundersen Parking Lot F.
New this year, walkers will have the option to walk the traditional 4.5-mile course or a shorter 2.5-mile route.
Since its inception in 2006, Steppin' Out in Pink has brought in nearly $4.3 million to fund breast cancer research initiatives at Gundersen Medical Foundation, and support local breast cancer patients and survivors.
For more information and to register go to steppinoutinpink.org.