BRCA 1 vs BRCA 2

A fan of the blog asked me a great question this week – “What are the differences between BRCA 1 and BRCA 2?” I’m listing some main bullet points below and there are some great articles if you want to learn more – here, here, here, and here.

  • BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 both increase the risk for breast and ovarian cancer
  • BRCA 1 is more commonly associated with triple-negative breast cancers & BRCA 2 is more commonly associated with estrogen receptor positive breast cancers
  • BRCA 1 may have a slightly higher risk of ovarian cancer than BRCA 2
  • BRCA 2 may be associated with increased risk for prostate, melanoma, and pancreatic cancers. A new study may link BRCA 2 with an increased risk for lung cancer.
  • Men can inherit both the BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 mutation
  • The risk to inherit both the BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 mutation is significantly higher in the Ashkenazi Jewish population

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photo source

Screw You Cancer

Caitlin Brodnick is awesome and hilarious. She’s a 28-year old stand-up comic who has the BRCA1 gene mutation (my gene is BRCA2). Like me, she decided to have a preventative mastectomy. She also made her journey public through a web series that Glamour aired, called Screw You Cancer.

I met Caitlin when Screw You Cancer won an award at the Television Academy Honors last week. I practically ran up to her to talk after learning that she had gone through this process, and she couldn’t have been more cool.  She was totally open, friendly, and she gave me her number right away so I could call her with questions. Most impressively, she let me feel her new boobies, and they felt great (it is amazing how every woman I’ve met who has gone through this surgery offers to let me touch their boobs).

Check out episode 1 below and the other eps are after the jump

Empowerment

Amidst the chaos of finishing up all my papers and projects and prepping for finals week, I have a buzz of excitement.  And no, the excitement is not about taking my Advanced Pharmacology cumulative final (groan). It is about the FORCE conference I will be attending in Philadelphia June 12-14. FORCE stands for Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered and is a support group and amazing resource for hereditary ovarian and breast cancer issues. They have in-person meetings, online resources, and forums.

I found out about the conference after having lunch with two young women who I met through the online forum. Both women are BRCA positive – one already had a prophylactic mastectomy and the other was considering it. I was amazed at how open both women were and the instant connection I felt with them through our shared genetic mutation and all the stuff that comes along with it. I’ve since emailed people on the forum from all over the country about surgery questions and everyone has responded with wonderful advice.

Once I found out about the FORCE annual conference, I was lucky enough to obtain a partial scholarship through FORCE and my wonderful mom donated airfare to me. I am so jazzed for this conference. I can’t wait to meet others with the BRCA gene, ask a million questions about mastectomy prep and recovery, and go to tons of awesome sessions. I plan to post and tweet often from the conference. Follow me on twitter here.

Educating Patients

A big part of why I started this blog was to encourage health care providers to educate high-risk patients about hereditary breast and ovarian cancers. As a nursing student, I see firsthand what an impact heath care providers can make with educating their patients. I got really lucky that the OBGYN I randomly found in undergrad (I used the very good research technique of, “what OBGYN is closest to campus and covered by my insurance) happened to be a BRCA specialist. In the huge clipboard of forms I filled out at the start of the appointment, there was a questionnaire about family history of breast and ovarian cancers. Little did I know as I checked off yes boxes on the form (are you of Ashkenazi Jewish descent, do you have a close relative who was diagnosed with breast or ovarian cancer), that my OBGYN would recommend I get the BRCA test.

I want to give a big shoutout to CDC Cancer for starting the #KNOWBRCA campaign, which aims to educate the public about the gene. I also can never express my gratitude enough to Dr. Lofquist, for having that BRCA questionnaire in her packet and for encouraging a girl in her early 20s to get the genetic test that could ultimately save her life.

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Getting Something off my Chest (No Pun Intended)

I have something to get off my chest (no pun intended). I am having a prophylactic (preventative) mastectomy at the end of this summer due to my high hereditary risk of breast cancer.  I am BRCA2 positive, aka the Angelina Jolie gene.  What this means is that I have a ridiculously high risk of getting breast cancer, so I’m having my breasts surgically removed to make sure I don’t get effing cancer. But then, I’ll be getting fake breasts, since my real ones may be trying to kill me.

But there is a lot more to me than my ticking time bomb breasts.  I am a graduate nursing student at UCLA, which is a huge benefit since my friends will actually want to help me clean my drainage tubes (yes, in this blog I’ll talk about some stuff that may sound gross – but I’m just being real, dude). I am a health education and advocacy nut, so I’ll be sharing lots of research, innovations, and prevention/screening resources with this online community. I’m also married to an incredible guy who is fully supportive of my decision and realistic enough to discourage me from getting Nikki Bella sized implants (yes, I am a Total Divas fan).

I’m a pop culture fanatic and movie buff. In my pre-nursing life, I was an editor for Rotten Tomatoes and got to do lots of awesome interviews.  I also love bad movies. One time, I even got to interview The Room‘s Tommy Wisseau under a pseudonym. I’m hoping to use my interviewing skillz on this site and talk to women who have funky genes.

Most importantly, if I can help one person through making my story public, I will feel really great about spilling my guts. So, thanks for sharing this journey with me – I’ll be sharing the good, bad, and ugly. Click here to learn more about me and my story.