Tough Choices

Since going public about my BRCA journey and decision to have a prophylactic mastectomy, I have met many people who’ve told me they are debating whether or not to get the genetic test. I know it’s a scary thought to think you may test positive for a gene that means you have a higher risk of getting breast and ovarian cancers than the general population. Personally, when I learned about this BRCA gene and test option in 2007, it was not a hard decision to get the test. I’ve always been someone who likes knowing as much as possible about my health. But, I know tons of people feel the opposite way. I encourage everyone who is high risk to get the test.  Here are some of the reasons why:

  • If you test positive for the BRCA gene mutation, it does not mean that you will get cancer. Many many people with the BRCA mutation never get cancer.
  • If you test positive for the BRCA gene mutation, it does not mean you have to go out and have prophylactic surgical procedures. Having a prophylactic mastectomy or oophorectomy is an individual choice and one that is not the right choice for everyone. At least if you know you have the BRCA genetic mutation, you can have this conversation with a specialist.
  • If you test positive for the BRCA gene mutation, you can then follow the screening protocol for BRCA mutation carriers. This means you are doing a great job of preventing cancer by following screening guidelines.
  • I have been getting mammograms, breast MRIs, pelvic ultrasounds, CA-125 blood tests, and full body dermatological exams every year since I turned 25 – and it was all covered by insurance! This is because I have the BRCA 2 mutation. Knowledge is power.

If you think you may be a candidate for the HBOC (hereditary breast and ovarian cancer) genetic test, click here to take this quiz. If you want to find a genetic counselor in your area, click here.

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