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Cancer battle is personal for Mrs. Red Rock; walk is Oct. 29

It’s just a number until it hits your family. According to the American Cancer Society, about 252,710 cases of breast cancer will be diagnosed this year in women, and nearly 41,000 will die from it. October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Amanda Klein, 34, of Summerlin knows the statistics all too well. Her mother died from breast cancer in 2009. It led her to becoming a board member with Southern Nevada’s American Cancer Society in January.

The ACS’s Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk is scheduled for Oct. 29 at Red Rock Resort, 11011 W. Charleston Blvd. Registration begins at 7:30 a.m.; the walk is at 8 a.m. Visit LasVegasNVStrides@cancer.org.

Klein recalled being a little girl and hearing her mother, Bonnie Powell, crying behind a locked door. Powell, 37, had been given bad news.

“All I understood at the time was that Mommy was sick. In the 1990s, you didn’t hear of women in their 30s getting cancer. It was something for people in their 50s, 60s and beyond. Even the doctors said to her, ‘There’s no way you can have cancer (at this age).’”

Powell underwent a mastectomy of her left breast, then chemotherapy. For the next 15 years, she helped others in their fight against cancer. She raised money for cancer research, got involved in the annual walk/run and wore pink ribbons. In 2005, cancer was detected again in her body, this time in her lymph nodes. Powell lost her battle.

Maria Habbi said that as a primary-care provider, she knows ensuring patients have access to timely and appropriate screening is crucial.

“The advances made in breast cancer treatment (are) quite remarkable, as is preservation of the breast or reconstruction after treatment,” she said. “It is encouraging for the patient to know they may be able to preserve their appearance after treatment. … Overall I believe that with the advances in medicine today, we are catching it earlier, have better treatments and more success stories.”

Klein said her mother’s battle was a wake-up call. She began having annual mammograms in her 20s. She had a genetics test done, a “real” one that tested 32 genes for possible mutations.

Klein learned she does not carry a BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation, the “breast cancer genes” made famous by celebrities Angelina Jolie and Christina Applegate. However, she does have a gene mutation associated with an increased risk of breast and pancreatic cancer, putting her in a high-risk category. She now gets annual checkups.

Cancer is one of Klein’s causes as Mrs. Red Rock; she contacts women and helps as they face cancer . She helps patients navigating the system, arranging transportation for women who need to get to treatment. She takes part in ACS’s Look Good Feel Better program, which provides wigs to women with cancer and teaches them how to treat their skin after the ravages of chemotherapy. She also helps with fundraisers to support research.

Her goal: to eradicate cancer in her lifetime.

“Not just breast cancer, all cancers,” Klein said. “I see that as very realistic.”

She urges other women to take a closer look at their family medical history and consider genetic counseling. For more information, visit FindAGeneticCounselor.com.

“In the 1950s, someone had a 25 percent chance of surviving cancer — any cancer,” Klein said. “In 2015, that jumped to 50 percent. In the last two years, it’s jumped to 65 percent. So, we are so close.”

Contact Jan Hogan at jhogan@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2949.

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