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Breast cancer patient, 38: ‘It’s hard to separate my breast cancer from my mom’s’

IU Health Simon Cancer Center

Breast cancer patient, 38: ‘It’s hard to separate my breast cancer from my mom’s’

She’s lived it once. Her mom died of breast cancer. Now Allison Dusko is undergoing treatment for her own diagnosis.

By IU Health Senior Journalist, T.J. Banes, tfender1@iuhealth.org

Here’s the thing that Allison Dusko finds so odd. Her cancer is not genetic. Her mother had breast cancer, but tests show no link to Dusko’s diagnosis.

It still plays on her mind – daily.

“When I learned I had breast cancer, it wasn’t good,” said Dusko, who turned 38 last month. “My mind immediately goes to my mom every time. Dusko was 16 when her mom died of breast cancer at the age of 42. “That’s my personal experience with breast cancer. It’s hard for me to separate mine from hers,” said Dusko.

Because of her mom’s history, Dusko began getting mammograms at the age of 25. A graduate of Cathedral High School, Dusko went on to major in English literature at IUPUI. Fifteen years ago she married Scott Dusko and is the mother to a son, 4, and two daughters ages 8 and 10.

Her first diagnosis came in 2019 when a mammogram showed a mass. She had a bilateral mastectomy and thought she was in the clear. Then this spring after finding a lump in her left breast she went in for a mammogram and ultra sound. A biopsy showed more cancer.

Genetic testing came back negative. Dusko tested positive for Her2, a breast cancer that tests positive for a protein called human epidermal growth factor receptor. The protein promotes the growth of cancer cells.

As she undergoes chemotherapy to fight off those cells, Dusko is in the care of IU Health’s Dr. Tarah Ballinger.

“I felt like IU Health had the best cancer care possible in Indianapolis,” said Dusko. It’s been good. Everyone is so kind and caring and empathetic for sure,” she added. “It’s taken a village of family support – my stepmom, cousins, siblings rallying around me,” said Dusko.

“I love Dr. Ballinger – she’s so smart and super informative. And I appreciate her confidence. No one can believe it’s not genetic and just a coincidence,” said Dusko. “Every time I question Dr. Ballinger and show my concerns because of my mom, she reminds me, I am not my mom.”

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