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Breast Cancer Strikes Three Generations

Dealing with the reality of a breast cancer diagnosis.

Tiffany Ryan remembers when her mother was diagnosed 14 years ago with Ductal Carcinoma in situ (DCIS), the most common type of non-invasive breast cancer. In her early 20s at the time, Ryan recalls being distraught and not knowing what to do for her mother. Karen Corbo, Ryan's mother, emerged from the darkness of the diagnosis with the support of her mother and sisters.

Last spring, Corbo, who is now cancer free, was faced with not one, but two family breast cancer diagnoses within one week of each other. Ryan and her maternal grandmother were given the grim news in May 2012.

Women who have a first-degree relative (mother, sister or daughter) with a history of breast cancer have about twice the risk of developing breast cancer, compared with women who do not have this family history, according to the American Cancer Society.

"My mother was diagnosed with breast cancer when she was 44 years old," Ryan told ADVANCE. "It was suggested that I have a mammogram at age 35 because of my family history."

Admittedly due to fear of the worst, Ryan waited until she was 38 years old to have her first mammogram. Her fears became a reality when the baseline mammogram revealed a spot on her right breast. She was asked to return for a biopsy and was ultimately diagnosed with DCIS, just like her mother. 

"My philosophy following the mammogram was 'hope for the best, but prepare for the worst,'" Ryan shared. "Once I learned my diagnosis, I tried my best to move forward because I have a husband and three kids who need me to be strong."

The same week that Ryan was diagnosed, her maternal grandmother, 80, was also diagnosed. Despite no prior diagnosis and having annual mammograms, she was diagnosed with 2 types of invasive cancer in each breast and is undergoing chemotherapy and radiation. 

Ryan tested negative for the breast cancer gene. Weighing all of her options carefully, Ryan chose to have a bilateral mastectomy, followed by immediate reconstructive surgery. She was home with her family and slowly getting back to her normal walking routine within a week.

In this video, Tiffany Ryan and her mother, Karen Corbo, share some of the intimate details of dealing with a breast cancer diagnosis.

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