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Do you know your family health history? It’s your first step in becoming your own best health advocate. The spring issue of Cancer PreventionWorks focuses on knowing your health background. This issue’s cover story features local CBS affiliate news co-anchor and Prevent Cancer board member, Andrea Roane, whose family history of cancer inspired her to take steps to live a longer and healthier life and Stop Cancer Before It Starts! Read Part I of Andrea’s story below and make sure to check out the full spring 2014 issue of Cancer PreventionWorks.

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As a fierce advocate for breast cancer prevention and early detection, local CBS affiliate news co-anchor and Prevent Cancer board member, Andrea Roane, practiced what she preached. Annual mammograms, monthly breast self-exams and regular clinical exams were part of her routine. She encouraged her family and the community to stay active, eat healthy, and know their bodies. She worked tirelessly to promote WUSA9’s breast self-exam program, Buddy Check 9, an idea originated by Prevent Cancer Foundation President and Founder Carolyn “Bo” Aldigé. Buddy Check 9 began 21-years ago as a station-sponsored initiative focusing on women’s health. The program encourages women ages 20 and up to perform self-breast exams on the ninth of every month and “call a buddy” to remind them to do the same.

Roane’s role as cancer prevention and early detection advocate was tested in 2008 when cancer struck her family. Her husband Michael’s older brother, Patrick, died of late stage colon cancer. It was a shock, because there was no history of cancer in either Andrea’s or Michael’s family. Then they discovered that Patrick, past the age of 50, had never had a colonoscopy. “By the time he noticed his symptoms, the cancer had already spread to his liver.” Roane immediately took her husband and mother in for colonoscopies and both of them had polyps removed that could have eventually become cancerous.

AndreaAndrewRoane’s ties to cancer deepened when her 26-year-old son, Andrew, was diagnosed with a soft sarcoma after continued pain in his shoulder, and sensations of tingling in his arm and hand. “The mass was near his carotid artery and it was pushing on his spinal column, which was causing weakness. A biopsy said it was benign, but when he was operated on in March 2010 at Johns Hopkins University Hospital, the mass was malignant.”

That same year, while on vacation in Israel, Andrea’s husband, Michael, shared with her that he had been diagnosed with early stage prostate cancer. “Shortly after Andrew finished a 5-day course of Cyberknife radiation at Georgetown University Hospital in December, we were back at Hopkins for Michael’s surgery.” Relying on her research skills and good friends from Prevent Cancer for information and advice on what questions to ask, along with recommendations of doctors and facilities for treatment, Andrea learned firsthand the value of screening – and also the value of inner strength.

Please check our blog next week for part two of Andrea’s story.