(WHTM) — A Midstate family has launched a fund in partnership with UPMC Pinnacle Foundation to help people pay for genetic testing and counseling.
The procedure specifically tests for mutations that put people at a higher risk for breast cancer. The Triano family created this to honor several family members who they lost to cancer, and they hope it can help other families avoid the same grief.
“This is going to help people long after we’re gone,” Diane Triano Cerminara said.
Diane and her two sisters Karen Triano Golin and Joan Triano have a history of helping people. Diane said their mom instilled that in them.
Twenty years ago, the three sisters, along with their mother started a fund with the UPMC Pinnacle Foundation to provide free mammograms.
“We’ve helped so many people who otherwise may not have been able to afford these potentially life-saving tests,” Karen said.
Their connection to that mission is personal. In the span of five years, the family lost three people to cancer.
“First my sister Nancy, then my sister Elise, both to cancer, and then my father in 2004,” Karen said.
Elise died from an aggressive form of breast cancer. The sisters’ mother also faced a battle with breast cancer, but she survived, dying years later from another condition.
Now the three sisters are starting another fund to honor their family, including their late mother.
“(It’s called) Dr. Gene and Elizabeth Triano family genetic[s] counseling fund,” Diane said.
“I think they would be very proud of us,” Joan said of the trio’s parents.
Genetic testing and counseling are especially important important for people with a family history of breast cancer, but it can cost over $1,000.
“A lot of times, the testing part was covered by insurance, but the counseling part was not.,” Michelle Loomis, major gifts officer at UPMC Pinnacle Foundation said.
The counseling is just as important, if not more important than the testing, Karen said. She and her sisters have all been tested because of their family history, and Karen tested positive for the BRACA 1 mutation.
“If you don’t get the counseling to understand your test results, you don’t know how to move forward,” she said.
Karen added the counseling has given her a plan for treatment if she is ever diagnosed with breast cancer and her chances of survival are immensely higher.
“That should be the way for everyone, to know the risks, to know what can potentially happen to them and what their options are,” she said.
The sisters said creating and supporting this fund is an outlet for years of grief.
“Their losses were an enormous void in our family and we somehow…were able to…put ourselves back together and see a path forward,” Diane said.
The fund has already had an impact. Loomis said UPMC Pinnacle Foundation has helped about 30 patients access genetic testing and counseling, and the foundation expects that number to double or triple in the next year.
This is a legacy the sisters hope can last.
“If we could save another family from losing any of their members and retaining that joy, that means more than anything,” Karen said.
To donate to the fund, visit UPMC Pinnacle Foundation’s website. Under the drop-down menu for Designation, select the Dr. Gene and Elizabeth Triano Family Genetics Counseling Fund.