Twin sisters, 32, diagnosed with breast cancer just three months apart





In November 2018, Ashley Huffman was shocked to discover she had cancer in her left breast at age 32.

She decided to undergo genetic testing shortly thereafter and learned she had a mutation that gave her a 70 percent risk of developing the disease.

Doctors recommended that her twin sister, Danielle Jones, undergo the same testing. As it turns out, she had the same mutation.

In February 2019, Jones decided she would get a mammogram in February 2019 to make sure she was healthy – only to learn that she also has breast cancer.

Despite having to both undergo aggressive treatments and surgeries, the sisters, from Michigan, told DailyMail.com that they’re grateful they had each other to lean on.

Twin sisters Danielle Jones (left) and Ashley Huffman (right), 32, were diagnosed with breast cancer just three months apart. Pictured: Jones in the hospital after her double mastectomy

Twin sisters Danielle Jones (left) and Ashley Huffman (right), 32, were diagnosed with breast cancer just three months apart. Pictured: Jones in the hospital after her double mastectomy

Huffman, who lives in Paw Paw, was diagnosed with breast cancer in November 2018. Pictured: Huffman, left, and Jones

She tested positive for a genetic mutation for the BRCA2 gene, which gave her a 70 percent risk of developing the disease. Pictured: Jones, right and Huffman

Huffman, who lives in Paw Paw, was diagnosed with breast cancer in November 2018. She tested positive for a genetic mutation for the BRCA2 gene, which gave her a 70 percent risk of developing the disease. Pictured, left and right: Huffman and Jones

The sisters may look the same, but aren’t sure if they are identical or fraternal.

‘The placenta was one but [doctors don’t] know if it was fused together or truly one and we never had the test done,’ Huffman told DailyMail.com. ‘My mom think we could be fraternal. 

Identical twins form from one zygote, which splits and forms two embryos that share a placenta but have separate amniotic sacs.

Fraternal twins develop from separate eggs that are fertilized by separate sperm. They have their own placenta and own amniotic sac. 

Regardless, the similarity in the sisters’ cases is striking, even to medical professionals.

Huffman, from Paw Paw, said that for several months last year, she had experienced pain in her left breast, but assumed it was just a clogged milk duct from breastfeeding her son.

She went for her annual exam to her OBGYN, who thought she felt a lump and recommended that Huffman go get checked out. 

Just three weeks later, she discovered that she had breast cancer. 

‘I was terrified, I was scared,’ Huffman told DailyMail.com. ‘I didn’t want my son to grow up without my mom.’ 

Because Huffman’s diagnosis came at such a young age, she was referred to a genetic center for testing to see if that was the cause of her breast cancer.   

After Huffman came back positive for the BRCA2 gene, doctors recommended Jones, from Kalamazoo, also get tested - and she came back positive too. Pictured: Huffman, left, with her husband Jon and son Liam

After Huffman came back positive for the BRCA2 gene, doctors recommended Jones, from Kalamazoo, also get tested – and she came back positive too. Pictured: Huffman, left, with her husband Jon and son Liam

In February 2019, Jones underwent a mammogram to make sure she was healthy, only to learn she also has breast cancer. Pictured: Jones, right, with her husband Jason and their two sons, ages five and 19 months

In February 2019, Jones underwent a mammogram to make sure she was healthy, only to learn she also has breast cancer. Pictured: Jones, right, with her husband Jason and their two sons, ages five and 19 months 

After all, the sisters’ family had a history of cancer. Their mother was survivor of melanoma and their paternal grandfather had died after his breast cancer metastasized.    

Between five and 10 percent of all breast cancers are believed to be hereditary and are passed down from generation to generation, according to non-profit Breastcancer.org.

HOW DOES THE BRCA GENE AFFECT BREAST CANCER RISK? 

Having a mutated BRCA gene – famously carried by Angelina Jolie – dramatically increases the chance a woman will develop breast cancer in her lifetime.

In fact, it jumps from 12 percent to 70 percent.

Between one in 800 and one in 1,000 women carry a BRCA gene mutation, which increases the chances of breast and ovarian cancer.

Both BRCA1 and BRCA2 are genes that produce proteins to suppress tumors. When these are mutated, DNA damage can be caused and cells are more likely to become cancerous.

The mutations are usually inherited and increase the risk of ovarian cancer and breast cancer significantly.

When a child has a parent who carries a mutation in one of these genes they have a 50 percent chance of inheriting the mutations.

Around 45 percent of women with the BRCA1 mutation and about 20 percent of women with the BRCA2 mutation will develop ovarian cancer by age 80. 

Source: Breastcancer.org 

The majority of hereditary breast cancers are due to mutations in two genes, BRCA1 and BRCA2.

Everybody has these genes, which repair damage to cells and inhibit abnormal cell growth.  

The average US woman has a 12 percent chance of being diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime, Breastcancer.org says.

However, women who have one or both BRCA mutations have at least a 70 percent risk of developing breast cancer.

After Huffman came back positive for the BRCA2 gene, doctors recommended Jones, from Kalamazoo, also get tested – and she had it as well. 

In January, Huffman underwent a double mastectomy, which is when both breasts re removed. 

‘It was a decision I made right away because it lowered my risk of recurrence by 60 percent and I didn’t want to through this again,’ she said.

However, she admitted it was a struggle to imagine herself without both breasts. 

‘I think for me it was a self-worth thing,’ she said. ‘You’re thinking your husband won’t look at you the same way – which he hasn’t, he’s been fantastic – but it’s an internal battle that I’ve been struggling with.’

Because Huffman’s cancer is invasive in nature, she’s currently in her third week of a 20-week chemotherapy regimen, and then will need to undergo 25 rounds of radiation therapy. 

Jones told DailyMail.com that she went in for a mammogram in early February where doctors found three suspicious spots.

Because of Huffman’s diagnosis, her doctor wanted to do a biopsy just in case. Two weeks later, she found out she also had breast cancer.  

‘At first I remember calling my sister and I told her: “You must have jinxed me, I think they found it in me too” and she was like: “You’re kidding”,’ Jones said.  

‘I thought there was no way that lightning could strike twice.’   

However, unlike her twin’s cancer, Jones was diagnosed with ductal carcinoma in situ, which is very early stage and confined to the milk ducts. 

Despite the early stage of her cancer, Jones also decided to undergo a double mastectomy, but she will not need chemotherapy or radiation. 

Because Huffman's cancer is invasive in nature, she's currently in her third week of a 20-week chemotherapy regimen, and then will need to undergo 25 rounds of radiation therapy. Pictured: Huffman with her son

Because Huffman’s cancer is invasive in nature, she’s currently in her third week of a 20-week chemotherapy regimen, and then will need to undergo 25 rounds of radiation therapy. Pictured: Huffman with her son 

Jones also decided to undergo a double mastectomy, but she will not need chemotherapy or radiation. Pictured: Jones with her husband two sons

Jones also decided to undergo a double mastectomy, but she will not need chemotherapy or radiation. Pictured: Jones with her husband two sons

Because of the higher risk of developing ovarian cancer both sisters have decided to have their ovaries removed in the future. Pictured: Jones, left, and Huffman

They say the strange silver lining is that Jones had Huffman to turn to as they battled the disease together. Pictured: Huffman and Jones as children

Because of the higher risk of developing ovarian cancer both sisters have decided to have their ovaries removed in the future. They say the strange silver lining is that Jones had Huffman to turn to as they battled the disease together. Pictured: Huffman and Jones today, left, and as children, right

Around 45 percent of women with the BRCA1 mutation and about 20 percent of women with the BRCA2 mutation will develop ovarian cancer by age 80. 

Because of this higher risk, both sisters have decided to have their ovaries removed in the future.

For Jones, she said the decision was easier. She and her husband, Jason, had gone through five years of infertility before having their five-year-old son and 19-month-old son.

‘My husband’s eight years older and my youngest had been born with hearing loss, so wanted to put our time and energy into what we have,’ she said.

Huffman, however, struggled with the decision because she and her husband, Jon, has wanted at least one or two more children.

‘The decision was made for me before I was ready to make the decision,’ she said. 

‘Once we found out BRCA2 gene, there was guilt because there’s a 50/50 chance my son has it. I also have endometriosis, so there’s other health problems, so for my family it was the best decision.’

In the midst of all of this, the sisters say the strange silver lining is that Jones had Huffman to turn to as they battled the disease together.

‘The last thing you wanted to see is your best friend battling this, but I was also thankful she had me to turn to through this whole thing,’ Huffman said.

Jones said that she felt like she was able to ask her sister questions at any time of day.

‘You can Google things all day long but, at the end of the day, it’s not a doctor and it’s not your sister,’ she said.

‘She she had already gone through it so I could ask her if this is normal or that’s normal and she had the answers, which gave me peace of mind.’ 



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