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It's About Discovering for the Brunner Family



Late afternoon, September 2011. The Brunner family - parents Alan and Shelly and their three daughters – attend a lengthy meeting with the genetics team at Sanford Roger Maris Cancer Center in Fargo.

“We closed the place down,” recalls oldest daughter Tracey Klobuchar. “But it was so worth it. We got all the information needed and every question answered. At the end, we had our blood drawn for the tests.”

The genetic tests would indicate whether Tracey, 24, Rachel, 22 and Megan, 17, had Lynch syndrome, a rare genetic condition that significantly increases risk of colorectal and other types of cancer. Most have no genetic link.

Cancer was no stranger to the Brunners. Alan was diagnosed with aggressive colorectal cancer in late 2010 at age 47. Today he’s cancer free and back at work in Mahnomen, Minn. But because 47 was young for colorectal cancer and because others in his family had been diagnosed with cancer at young ages, Alan agreed to extra steps to learn more.

Lynch syndrome in Alan meant his daughters had a 50/50 chance of having it, too. Would they want to pursue testing to find out? Well-informed, all three daughters said yes. “As soon as we found out my dad had Lynch syndrome, we learned everything we could,” Tracey said. “All three of us knew we wanted to be tested.”

“Waiting for the test results was nerve-wracking,” says Rachel. “We all three ended up having it. We also learned that with our particular type of Lynch syndrome, the greatest concern is endometrial cancer. We have a 30 to 40 percent chance of getting colorectal cancer in our lifetime, but the chance for endometrial cancer is twice that.”

Even more important, the sisters learned how to take the best possible care of themselves. Beginning at age 25, they’ll undergo periodic tests including colonoscopies, endometrial biopsies, upper endoscopy studies, urinalyses and more.

Well-equipped with extensive information and a detailed management plan, all three sisters know they can count on Sanford for support and care coordination at any point in their lives.

Today Tracey, Rachel and Megan don’t live in fear of what-if. With smiles, they talk about their lives and their futures. Empowered and confident, each travels her own path:

  • Recently married, Tracey lives and works in Fargo.
  • Rachel studies pharmacy and business at North Dakota State University.
  • Megan attends high school in Mahnomen where she’s a cheerleader.

  • They laugh in unison, trying to recall the details of family stories that go way back. But there’s one story they’ll never forget ¬– and it’s current: love of family gets you through.

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    Posted Date: June 2012

    It's About Discovering for the Brunner Family

    What if you had to decide whether or not to take a simple blood test to determine your genetic risk of developing cancer? This decision was not an easy one for the Brunner family, but genetic testing is one pathway that Sanford Roger Maris Cancer Medical Oncologist Preston Steen believes is uncovering important medical discoveries – and cures.