Thursday, June 2, 2011

To Test or Not to Test

BRCA1 and BRCA 2
If you don't know about genetic testing and breast cancer, there is a lot to learn. The information is fascinating and interesting (if you like science), but it also very personal and not for everyone. Before you agree to it, you have to be ready and willing to hear the results. 
I did it - I had the genetic testing done. 
Since I was diagnosed with breast cancer at under 45 years of age, I was a "prime candidate" the doctors told me. I didn't hesitate to move ahead with the test, but I wasn't ready to hear what a BRCA positive result would mean. I was counseled prior to the blood draw and told I could cancel the test at anytime.....and if I never wanted to know, I didn't have to come back. 

Two weeks. It takes two weeks for the results to come back. If you are told you do have the BRCA gene, extra breast screening or radical double mastectomy is recommended, not to mention the removal of your ovaries. Since ovarian cancer is harder to detect and therefore discovered often in a later stage and not as treatable, removing them is the best protection. My oncologist told me that if I tested positive for BRCA, that she'd want me to consider having my ovaries removed within a year or two (but I sensed that sooner was the push). So not only was I still recovering from the lumpectomy, I was facing chemo and/ or radiation treatment and thinking about the possibility of having pieces of me removed within a year. 

I understand why some women don't want to have this test. 

I also learned that if I did test positive, that result would impact my brother - increase his risk of male breast cancer by a small amount, but really increase his chances of getting prostrate cancer. I don't have a sister and I cannot imagine what it would be like to pass along news of a positive BRCA test.
The days went quickly and I wasn't too concerned until the night before I was to hear the final answer. I was full of what ifs and what will I dos....

I got that answer today and luckily I am negative.

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