Here at Menopause Mondays®, we are all about women supporting women. My ears perked up when I heard about a new app called GABBI, a consumer-friendly breast cancer risk calculator that can propose a health action plan and link users to a network of women in the same risk population!
I immediately knew I needed to learn about GABBI and share the info with the sisterhood. I contacted Kaitlin Christine, its founder, to see if I could grab an hour with her and get the inside scoop.
Like so many fantastic revolutionary ideas, I learned that GABBI came about from Kaitlin’s profoundly personal and life-changing experience.
Kaitlin was a senior in college when her mother discovered that she had a recurrence of her breast cancer after 15 years of remission. Kaitlin immediately dropped out of school to become her mother’s full-time caregiver. Eight months later, her mother passed away.
Before her mother died, she insisted that Katlin promise her that she would get tested for the BRCA 1 gene variant. Kaitlin was committed to following thru on this promise. She and her mother went to the same gynecologist. Much to Kaitlin’s surprise, this doctor refused to order the genetic test. Kaitlin would not take no for an answer. She insisted on having the test and found out two weeks later that she carried a BRCA 1 gene like her mother. Shortly after, while doing a self-exam of her breasts, Kaitlin identified lumps in both of her breasts. Her new gynecologist proclaimed she was too young to have breast cancer and resisted further testing. Once again, Kaitlin insisted! Subsequently, she had a breast ultrasound, MRI, and biopsy. The biopsy found that one of the lumps was a precancerous tumor. The radiologist proclaimed that it was likely a false positive due to dense breasts as she was too young to have breast cancer.
At age 24, after consulting with additional experts, Kaitlin decided to have a “prophylactic bilateral mastectomy” as a precautionary measure. During the surgery, she was diagnosed with breast cancer.
That moment changed her life and redirected her passions and priorities from theatre and food writing to becoming an early breast cancer detection ambassador. She then pursued a more clinical role as a hereditary cancer specialist. Kaitlin quickly realized that the resistance to essential individualized breast cancer prevention that she experienced was not unique to her. It was affecting millions of women as well.
It is very disconcerting that so many women are diagnosed late vs. early. According to Kaitlin, an early diagnosis has a 99% survival rate, whereas a late diagnosis has a 28% survival rate. In addition to understanding your general risk, each woman needs to understand their specific risk.
If Kaitlin hadn’t been her own very strident health advocate, she would not have had genetic testing, follow-up breast imaging, a biopsy, or the surgery she needed to save her life.
Out of the darkness of devastating personal loss and her battle with breast cancer, Kaitlin created her vision for GABBI. She spent several years of research and focus groups to come up with this innovative app that can help empower women with the following tools:
- a risk calculator which prompts a woman to enter the personal information needed to assess her risk of breast cancer
- a personalized action plan which you may want to share with your healthcare provider (The action plan may suggest a woman at an elevated risk receive enhanced screening such as an MRI or a mammogram earlier than is the norm. The goal is that a diagnosis occurs as early as possible.)
- a community support group from other women with a similar risk profile
I think information is power. However, some women tell me that they do not want to know their genetics. Kaitlin’s response, “The risks you have now are the same risks you have when you find out you have an increased risk, except the earlier you discover it, the more you can do about it.”
Before we concluded, I had to ask how she came up with the name GABBI? Kaitlin explained, “My mother’s name is Lise Gabrielle. She and I often clashed as we were both outspoken, opinionated women. We were often criticized because of it. We always shared information. So, using my mother’s middle name and the superpower of women often gabbing, GABBI was born.”
The GABBI app will initially be available for free by March, but they will be conducting early testing beforehand in January or early February. If you are interested in supporting this great startup that is designed to increase early breast cancer detection and save lives be sure to go to the GABBI website for more information. You can become an early tester by signing up here.
Thank you, Kaitlin, for sharing your own story of trying to understand your breast cancer risk. You enlightened us on the potential life and death implications of not getting tested. We understand that no two women are the same. That is why GABBI uses today’s technology and busts through (no pun intended) the old ways of putting women in “broad buckets of care.”
It is truly remarkable how Kaitlin’s inner light broke through the darkness to bring sunshine to others.
Here is to always GABBIng about our breast health!!!
Remember: Suffering in silence is OUT! Reaching out is IN.
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*EllenDolgen.com does not recommend, endorse, or make any representation about any tests, studies, practices, procedures, treatments, services, opinions, healthcare providers, physicians, or medical institutions that may be mentioned or referenced.