Young Mom Beats BRCA2-Positive Breast Cancer

Lissette Garcia was breastfeeding her baby boy in December of 2020 when she felt a small bump in her left breast. She chalked it up to massive milk production but followed up with her gynecologist, who told her to keep an eye on it. It was when Ms. Garcia developed mastitis in the same breast two months later, that worry set in and she was sent for an ultrasound and then a mammogram.

A scary diagnosis

At age 29, with two children under the age of 4, Ms. Garcia was told she had stage 2 invasive ductal carcinoma, meaning it had spread to the lymph nodes under her arm. Testing through Baptist Health Miami Cancer Institute’s Clinical Genetics also revealed that she had a BRCA2 mutation. People with BRCA2 variations are at a much higher risk than the general population of developing breast, ovarian and pancreatic cancer, as well as melanoma. In men, there is also an increased risk for prostate cancer and male breast cancer. And not only is the risk higher, but those who do get cancer tend to do so at a younger age than their contemporaries.

“It was overwhelming and scary. My whole family was shocked,” Ms. Garcia recalls of the diagnosis. “We don’t have a history of cancer. My two sisters got tested later and they were not BRCA2 positive.”

The Coconut Creek resident turned to breast medical oncologist Lauren Carcas, M.D., at Baptist Health Miami Cancer Institute in Plantation. “She was a complete angel,” Ms. Garcia says. “She drew everything out for me and from that point on, when my family and friends wanted to know what was happening, I showed them pictures of what Dr. Carcas had drawn.”

Chemo and surgery

She remembers everything speeding up from that moment forward. Eight rounds of chemotherapy shrunk the tumor, but also left her without hair. Fittingly, Ms. Garcia works in human resources for Hair Club, a company that develops and delivers hair solutions and wigs. When they shipped a wig to her home, the gesture was appreciated.

“Your feminine side really suffers,” she acknowledges. “It’s kind of funny now, though, because once my hair started falling out, my husband and my dad shaved my head. My oldest noticed I was crying and he thought it was because my dad had cut my hair wrong. He told me, ‘Mom, next time, go to a salon.’”

On Sept. 1, 2021, Ms. Garcia had a double mastectomy, performed by breast surgeon Starr Mautner, M.D., and expanders placed by plastic and reconstructive surgeon Harry Salinas, M.D., both with Miami Cancer Institute. Two days later, Ms. Garcia, her husband Jonathan, and their two boys Matthew and Kevin, moved into a new home.

“It was a lot all at once,” she says. “The good thing about it was that I didn’t have to lift a finger during the move. The saddest part was that I had two small children. I couldn’t pick up my baby and be a mom.”

Surgery was followed by radiation therapy from October through December, which left her skin sensitive and burned. After healing, reconstructive surgery took place on May 17, 2022.

Lauren Carcas, M.D., a breast medical oncologist at Baptist Health Miami Cancer Institute in Plantation

The future

Among the many conversations the couple had with each other and their physicians were talks about the future. “Because BRCA2-positive patients have a much higher risk for ovarian cancer, we often recommend removal of the ovaries,” Dr. Carcas says. “Ultimately, it is a decision the patient must make. Lissette will be followed by a gynecological oncologist.”

The decision process involves understanding genetic test results, explains Arelis Martir-Negron, M.D., a medical geneticist with Baptist Health Miami Cancer Institute. “As part of our discussion, we explain what the results mean and provide recommendations for risk reduction and cancer screening. We also review at-risk family members.”

Arelis Martir-Negron, M.D., a medical geneticist with Baptist Health Miami Cancer Institute.

For now, the couple is leaving open the possibility of having a third child. “We don’t really know what will happen,” says Ms. Garcia, “but if I remain healthy, we’ll talk about removing my ovaries when I turn 45.”


Ms. Garcia feels fortunate that throughout her treatment, although it was difficult, she didn’t suffer from many side effects or serious complications. She found talking to a therapist helpful and maintained her routine as much as possible. “I didn’t want to miss birthday parties, graduations or family get-togethers. And I made a choice to really put myself out there no matter how different I looked.” She also let herself have an occasional “pity party,” a time to cry and be sad. But she didn’t stay in that place long, crediting her husband, parents, in-laws, kids and friends with making her laugh.

Starr Mautner, M.D., breast surgeon at Miami Cancer Institute.

She also took advantage of services offered by Miami Cancer Institute such as physical therapy to help her regain mobility of her left arm, and she met with a nutritionist for advice on her diet. And she often reminded herself that she was not the only one going through this terrible nightmare ― that many others she met had it worse and that her own family was experiencing an emotional rollercoaster.


“To others going through this, I would remind them they are strong,” Ms. Garcia says. “Remember the happy memories and think about all the good things that are going to happen still in the future. Trust the medicine, trust the technology and follow the instructions. Keeping a positive mindset helps everyone around us.”

As she nears the two-year mark from the day she first felt that lump in her breast, Ms. Garcia is looking forward to more trips to the beach and traveling with her family.

Healthcare that Cares

With internationally renowned centers of excellence, 12 hospitals, more than 27,000 employees, 4,000 physicians and 200 outpatient centers, urgent care facilities and physician practices spanning across Miami-Dade, Monroe, Broward and Palm Beach counties, Baptist Health is an anchor institution of the South Florida communities we serve.

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