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Cancer Specialist Shares What To Learn From Florida First Lady Casey DeSantis' Breast Cancer Diagnosis

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Florida First Lady Casey DeSantis has breast cancer. Gov. Ron DeSantis shared the news in early October.

It comes just days into October, which has been designated as Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Currently, the first lady has yet to share what stage the cancer is in, but her husband has said, "Casey is a true fighter, and she will never, never, never give up."

"We know the bulk of women now are diagnosed between age 40 and 50," said Dr. Jane Mendez, chief of surgery at the Miami Cancer Institute.

Casey DeSantis is not alone. The 41-year-old mom of three is now one of the thousands of women who are diagnosed with breast cancer each year.

"By age 41, 1 out of 217 women, by 45 1 out of 93, by age 50 1 out of 50," Dr. Mendez said.

The chances of getting diagnosed go up with age.

"Eighty-five percent of breast cancers, which is the vast majority, occur sporadically, meaning they don't have it in their family, just happens out of the blue," Dr. Mendez said.

This is why screenings can make a life or death difference. Yearly mammograms for those over 40, but in some cases, for others, breast MRI exams, or even genetic testing for those younger with a history.

"Usually any woman diagnosed with breast cancer below age 50 is considered a candidate for genetic testing," Dr. Mendez explained.

When the cancer is caught early, the chances of beating it are higher. Dr. Mendez told CBS4 that 98.5% of patients who detected breast cancer early have a 10-year survival rate.

"South Florida is unique in that we have a very heterogeneous patient population," she said.

That means the message has to be spread across different cultures and languages, but also to learn more about your ancestry and chances of developing breast cancer.

"When you come from South America, Central or the Caribbean you have to keep in mind all this genetic mixture," Dr. Mendez said.

Between Latin and Black women, breast cancer is the leading cause of death among women who get cancer.

"There's no perfect diet, diet is more about being cognizant of what you're eating and making sure about how you prepare the foods and the quantities of the food you eat," Dr. Mendez added.

Though genetics play a part, Dr. Mendez explained, it's a small number, about 5% of breast cancers are inherited. This is why lifestyle choices are contributing factors.

Doctors recommend getting regular exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, staying away from alcohol and doing research with hormone replacement therapy if needed.

However, Dr. Mendez could not underscore enough the importance of getting screened.

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