White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany highlighted the BRCA 2 genetic mutation, a gene irregularity that increases the risk of breast cancer and disproportionately affects Ashkenazi Jewish women, at the Republican National Convention on Wednesday.
“It was days before Christmas, and I was 21 years old when I got a call that changed my life,” said McEnany. “It was my doctor, informing me that I had tested positive for the BRCA 2 genetic mutation — a mutation that put my chances of breast cancer at 84%.”
The BRCA 2 gene is prominent in McEnany’s family and has led to eight relatives getting diagnosed with breast cancer, many at young ages. McEnany decided to get a preventative mastectomy in order to significantly reduce her chances of developing the disease.
“I was scared. The night before I fought back tears, as I prepared to lose a piece of myself,” said McEnany. “But the next day, with my mom, dad, husband, and Jesus Christ by my side, I underwent a mastectomy, almost eliminating my chance of breast cancer— a decision I now celebrate.”
According to the charity Ovarian Cancer Action, the general population has a 1 in 400 chance of having a mutation in their BRCA genes.
“People of Ashkenazi Jewish descent have a 1 in 40 chance of carrying a BRCA mutation, making them 10 times as likely to carry a BRCA mutation as someone in the general population,” the charity writes.
It is estimated that one percent of all Ashkenazi Jews alive today inherit a faulty copy of one of their BRCA 2 genes, according to Johns Hopkins University. The mutation is so common that in 2014, Israeli researchers recommended that all women with Ashkenazi heritage get screened for BRCA defects, even if they have no family history of breast or ovarian cancer.
During the speech, McEnany spoke about the support President Trump and his family provided throughout her recovery from surgery, claiming that the President “stands by Americans with preexisting conditions.”
This claim has been fact-checked and determined to be false. The Trump administration has long tried to eliminate the Affordable Care Act, which prevents health insurers from denying coverage to those with pre-existing conditions. The removal of the Affordable Care Act could leave millions of Americans with pre-existing conditions lacking healthcare or facing increased premiums.
Noa Wollstein is a senior at Princeton University pursuing degrees in English, Documentary Production, and Journalism.