AURORA - Everyone wants to know why they have cancer. Our risk goes up with age and certain lifestyle choices, such as smoking or weight gain.

Knowing your family history is valuable, too. Dr. Anthony Elias at the University of Colorado Cancer Center says genetic testing has become important tool for oncologists.

"We do have genes in the population that do cause cancer. Those are things we can't really change. What we can change is picking it up earlier," Dr. Elias said.

Noelle Johnson is one of Dr. Elias' patients. She was 21 years old when she was first diagnosed with a soft tissue sarcoma, which required surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. At age 37, Johnson was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Genetic counselor Michelle Springer has been working with Johnson, who has tested positive for the p53 gene. As a mom of four boys, Johnson wants to know more about this genetic connection.

After two battles with cancer, Johnson is grateful for the information.

"Living in denial and living the dark would not have worked for me," Johnson said. "It's better for me to know and to be proactive and to be thankful for what we do have and what we're able to do about it."

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