Jill Martin's All-Too-Common Story: Why didn't anyone catch her BRCA mutation sooner?

Jul 21, 2023

Earlier this week, TODAY Show contributor Jill Martin shared her breast cancer story to dispel myths about hereditary cancer, empower other patients and advocate for personalized cancer prevention. "I am telling this story now because I couldn’t go through months of operations, and start to recover both physically and mentally, without shouting from the rooftops telling everyone to check with their doctors to see if genetic testing is appropriate," she wrote in her op-ed. 



 "Hearing that another young woman has breast cancer is always heartbreaking, but Jill Martin's story is unique and gives me hope. It was genetic testing, followed by supplemental screening, that helped her find a breast cancer that otherwise would've been missed," said Feyi Ayodele, CancerIQ co-founder and CEO. "Having the courage to share the backstory behind her diagnosis is going to save countless lives. How can more people at risk get access to the testing and risk-based screening needed to stay a step ahead of cancer?"


It is an all-too-common scenario in today’s breast centers and women's health clinics: a woman, like Martin, who comes in every year for her mammogram, fills out an intake form to provide the health system with her family history. She isn't flagged for genetic testing. A missed opportunity.

Years later, the woman is diagnosed with late-stage breast cancer. It turns out she was a carrier of the BRCA genetic mutation, meaning she faced a significantly higher risk of a breast cancer diagnosis than the average woman. The diagnosis disrupts her long-term health and wellbeing, forcing invasive surgeries and/or aggressive treatments with a long list of side effects. It also disrupts her work, family, and social relationships and has significant financial consequences. Most of all, it leaves her asking a simple but difficult question: “Why didn’t anyone catch this sooner?”

The answer is that the average breast program provides one-size-fits-all preventive care that fails to meet the needs of the 1 in 10 women, like Martin, with the highest risk of a breast cancer diagnosis. More than 257,000 new cases of breast cancer are diagnosed in the United States annually; as many as 10% due to genetic or familial risk factors that can be addressed in advance.

To fill in gaps in care for high-risk patients, breast centers must be able to identify more high-risk patients, improve productivity and efficiency, and navigate more patients to specialty care. Here's how: 

  1. Prevent patients from falling through the cracks by leveraging engaging outreach resources and data collection tools designed to support comprehensive cancer risk assessment at the population level.
  2. Educate patients at the point of care so they understand their individual cancer risk and how to manage it with the appropriate preventive care interventions.
  3. Reduce administrative work time with automated documentation and advanced pedigree software embedded into workflows.
  4. Manage care pathways over time with clinical guidance, follow-up education and tracking resources embedded in existing workflows.
  5. Scale your impact with health system-level insight into clinical and financial performance and ongoing, hands-on support. 

One-size-fits-all breast cancer screening too often leaves high- and rising-risk patients behind and limits breast center referral volume and growth. But identifying and engaging high-risk patients can be a challenge for busy breast centers. The CancerIQ platform makes it easy to gather comprehensive patient data, automatically map it to the latest evidence-based guidelines, and manage hyper-personalized care plans within existing EHR workflows.



Topics: Breast Centers