A Benefit of Testing

09Jan10

Not everyone wants to undergo BRCA testing because they worry the possibility of bad news. But for me, I figure there is only the chance of good news.

When my aunt was diagnosed with breast cancer, I begun to wonder about my own risks. When my grandmother was diagnosed, I was concerned about the risks but not overly so. When my mother was diagnosed, I finally knew that I most definitely had a strong “family history.” I looked up breast cancer screening guidelines and found out that I satisfy all the requirements for high-risk screening procedures. And with that, I begun to think of myself as “high-risk.”

My mother and grandmother got recommended for genetic testing. I read up about BRCA testing and found out that everyone in the family testing negative meant absolutely nothing for our risk. We would still have a family history, but we just wouldn’t know why. So I knew I should wish for a positive result even though it seemed so counter-intuitive. (And it still was a psychological blow when they did test positive.)

So now I know I have a 50% chance of carrying a BRCA2 mutation which confers up to an 85% risk of breast cancer before age 70%. What does this mean to me? I am high-risk.

But what if I don’t have the BRCA2 mutation? What does this mean? Well, according to the current research, it means that my risk of breast cancer should be treated the same as the general population. So if I do genetic testing, I could find out that I actually have a normal risk of breast cancer.

And that is why I want to get tested.

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One Response to “A Benefit of Testing”

  1. Yeah – counterintuitive as it seems, it is good to have that positive result attached to one (or more) of the relatives with cancer. My mother died before BRCA tests really existed (I think the BRCA1 mutations had only recently been identified, and nothing on BRCA2 yet), so the best we can hope for is that her pathology report will somehow indicate whether her ovarian cancer was of the type that is associated with these mutations. Without conclusive info, though, I don’t think a negative results (for me) is going to help me at all.

    This is all so hard, but information is power.


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