Cancer Survivor Stories: Kristen Berset-Harris


Two-Time Breast Cancer Survivor & Thriver Kristen Berset-Harris: Advancements in Cancer Research Saved My Life

With no family history of disease and no genetic predisposition, it came as quite a shock to Kristen Berset-Harris, Host of Great Day Washington on WUSA9, when she received not one but two breast cancer diagnoses in less than ten years.

Kristen’s Story

At age 26, Kristen Berset-Harris found a lump in her breast while performing a self-breast exam. Her doctor initially misdiagnosed this lump as a cyst and referred her to a plastic surgeon to have it removed.

Learn more about the importance of at-home self-breast exams for catching breast cancer early.

Immediately, the plastic surgeon set to do her removal knew when he felt the lump that Kristen needed a mammogram, biopsy, and MRI. Fortunately for Kristen, she caught her lump early and was diagnosed with Stage I Breast Cancer. This diagnosis meant she would likely receive successful treatment and bounce back to her normal life quickly. Kristen underwent a prophylactic bilateral mastectomy as part of her treatment, thinking this would mean she would never have to deal with cancer again.

Fast forward to seven years later, one month before her wedding, Kristen felt another lump. Quickly, with her doctors, she confirmed she had a breast cancer recurrence.

Research shows only 5-10% of breast cancers are hereditary. However, the lifetime risk of getting breast cancer in the U.S. is about 1 in 8 for women and 1 in 726 for men.

The second time around, facing cancer looked different for Kristen. One observation that amazed her was how many more treatment options were available thanks to cancer research progress in just seven years. Although she received gene testing after her initial diagnosis, she underwent the analysis again during her recurrence because there was so much more researchers had learned about what to look for.

Thanks in part to the comprehensive genomic sequencing analysis Kristen received, her medical team was able to determine that chemotherapy would only increase her chances of survival by about 3% compared to other treatments. This small margin in treatment success, paired with the concern about the effects chemotherapy would have on her body, the team decided this was not her best treatment course. Based on her specific cancer, chances of survival, lifestyle demands, and with the insights gained from her gene testing, Kristen and her medical team were able to form a specific, targeted treatment plan.

Ultimately, Kristen underwent a lumpectomy followed by 36 rounds of proton radiation therapy. While proton radiation therapy existed during her initial bout with cancer, the proven effectiveness of the treatment was not well-known – another advancement in cancer research that led to her successful treatment.

Progress in Cancer Research around genomic sequencing and targeted therapies allows for more and more medical teams to develop treatment plans specific to the individual receiving treatment and not provide a generic treatment plan. NFCR is instrumental in advancing researchers who are making precision medicine possible! Learn more here.

Fortunately, today, Kristen can call herself a two-time breast cancer survivor and thriver!

“[Being a survivor is] one of those clubs you never want to be in, but you are glad to have the community.” – Kristen Berset-Harris

Throughout her experience with cancer, Kristen saw how significant it was that progress in cancer research continues and encourages everyone to get involved with making cures possible for all types of cancer with NFCR. She is optimistic that through precision medicine, more patients will be able to declare themselves cancer-free!

More About Kristen Berset-Harris

Kristen Berset-Harris proudly serves as one of NFCR’s Community Ambassadors and has hosted our Annual Szent-Györgyi Prize for Progress in Cancer Research Award Ceremony and our Cancer Community Panel Discussion.

More About NFCR’s Community Ambassador Program

NFCR is on a mission to defeat cancer as we know it. If you are also passionate about finding cures for all types of cancers, let us know! We are looking for individuals who want to use their voice, story, and platform to encourage others to raise funds and awareness for cancer research.

Kristen Berset-Harris
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