Today I made a big decision. I had genetic testing done to look for cervical and breast cancer genes. Do you remember several years ago when Angelina Jolie had that testing done and then had a double mastectomy as a preemptive measure? Well it’s that test. I am also being scheduled to have my first mammogram. However lets rewind a bit….
I just moved from Florida to Atlanta last year, so I am in the process of getting all new doctors. I also FINALLY have healthcare which is a feat within itself in this country. In the past three weeks, I have developed a sharp, burning pain in my right breast. It comes and goes but it is consistent once it starts. The first week it was annoying, the second week it was tiring, the third week I have started to worry. My grandmother had breast cancer when she was 28. She did survive it and then went on to die from a different type of rare cancer later on in life.
It is reported that, 5% to 10% of breast cancers are hereditary. There has been advancements in technology that allows scientists to look at our genes and detect if there are any abnormalities that could end up being cancer. Most inherited cases of breast cancer are associated with mutations in two genes: BRCA1 (BReast CAncer gene one) and BRCA2 (BReast CAncer gene two).
You are more likely to have a genetic abnormality linked to breast cancer if:
- You have blood relatives (grandmothers, mother, sisters, aunts) on either your mother’s or father’s side of the family who had breast cancer diagnosed before age 50.
- There is both breast and ovarian cancer on the same side of the family or in a single individual.
- You have a relative(s) with triple-negative breast cancer.
- There are other cancers in your family in addition to breast, such as prostate, melanoma, pancreatic, stomach, uterine, thyroid, colon, and/or sarcoma.
- Women in your family have had cancer in both breasts.
- You are of Ashkenazi Jewish (Eastern European) heritage.
- You are African American and have been diagnosed with breast cancer at age 35 or younger.
- A man in your family has had breast cancer.
- There is a known abnormal breast cancer gene in your family.
If one family member has a genetic mutation linked to breast cancer, it does not mean that all family members will have it. So just because your sister or mom tests positive does not mean that you will test positive as well.
The average woman in the United States has about a 1 in 8, or about 12%, risk of developing breast cancer in her lifetime.
Women who have a BRCA1 mutation or BRCA2 mutation (or both) can have up to a 72% risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer during their lifetimes
I made the decision to have the testing done. I am one of those people that would rather know answers so I can thoroughly research my options. I am not scared of the results. It is just another piece of a puzzle and one less “What if” in my life. I also will be going in for a mammogram hopefully in the next week. My doctor sent in a referral for me to have one. We have a double purpose for this, one to check on the pain in my breast and two because I should have started getting them at 18 and need a baseline mammogram.
If you have a 1st degree family member with a history of breast cancer below the age of 50, you should be getting a mammogram ten years prior to when your relative developed breast cancer. So I know that sounds a tad confusing, but as an example if your mother had breast cancer at 37, you would start getting mammograms at 27. One thing my doctor said today that really stood out to me was this:
“Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you are too young to get breast cancer”
All in all my appointment today went well. I will post an update when I go to get my mammogram. I am in limbo with the genetic testing waiting for results for 2-3 weeks. I also had a pap smear done to round out my annual physical. I’ll have those results soon as well. In the meantime i’ll be preserving my spoons for other adventures.