Friday, January 23, 2009

Genetics

So today I went for the genetic testing that I probably should have had done a long time ago: the test for mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2, the breast cancer genes.

Way before my diagnosis, I got a letter from the hospital where I received my most recent mammogram. The letter said something like this: due to your background and family history (i.e. you are of Ashkenazi Jewish descent and your mom had breast cancer at age 48), you are at a higher than average risk for breast cancer, and you might want to consider this test. The thing is, if you get a positive on this test (i.e. a mutation in BRCA1 or 2), you are definitely at higher risk for both breast cancer and ovarian cancer, and the only prevention is a bi-lateral mastectomy (to prevent breast cancer) and an oophrectomy (to prevent ovarian cancer). To put it bluntly, they remove your breasts, and take out your ovaries. And who wants THAT?

So I avoided the test. But now I can't avoid it. Because I already have breast cancer, that means my chance of recurrence is already higher than average. If I have the gene, it will be even higher. So I need to know. But I don't really want to know.

The genetic counselor was a very nice young woman, and she took my family history. There is a possibility of a mutation of the breast cancer gene from BOTH sides of my family, something I hadn't realized. It could be on my mother's side because of my mother's breast cancer, and it could be on my father's side because his first cousin had breast cancer. She showed me how the gene could have passed through the men on my dad's side. Scary.

Also, the other things I hadn't realized, is that if I do have the gene, my brother needs to be tested because it could be passed onto HIS kids. And it even could affect J (my son) by increasing his chances of male breast cancer or prostate cancer.

So I really, really, really want this test to come back negative for mutations. Really.

So I wait. Again. Three weeks for these results. That will be after my surgery. The fun never ends...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I didn't know this stuff -- I'm learning through you. And I'm really hoping with you that the test comes back negative for mutations.
B