1 in 8

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.

My super fancy and VERY PINK doctors office

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.

They gave me a super comfy robe to wear instead of a paper dress!

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3 thoughts on “1 in 8

  1. It’s a GREAT idea but it isn’t a guarantee. I had NO family history of Breast Cancer but when I got Triple Negative Breast Cancer in 2017 I had a full genetic profile with a genetic counselor at my Drs.office after my diagnosis. EVERYTHING came back negative. I had the biggest profile they could do because I have a daughter and 3 boys and the same mutation that causes TNBC can cause Prostate and other cancers too, I was worried about all my kids and family, not just my daugther and sisters, etc. I’m still the only one in my family, which is good news for them as their risk doesn’t increase. It’s best in your case(and most womens) to know though. Not trying to be negative at all, just letting you know I had no increased risk and still got a more rare and very aggressive cancer. Basically, keep up on mammograms, sonograms, breast exams, report **anything** even slightly abnormal even if you feel silly, etc. no matter what! I had HAD a pretty recent breast exam and it came (seemingly)out of nowhere and I initially blew it off as nothing(2 lumps in my armpit/had already moved to my lymph nodes and beyond(LVI was extensive) by the time I found it ,and I waited a few months to go and still felt silly, embarrassed, and paranoid (and almost cancelled my appt.) because of the lack of family history. and my having Fibromyalgia, etc.(super sensitive). Thought I was imagining it, or overreacting, etc. Mom and one sister have chronic mastitis so our family IS prone to lumps that are benign. I wasn’t so lucky. I was stupid to put off seeing my Dr. and even made excuses and apologized for insisting on a sonogram too. The lumps seemed to come and go and i couldn’t tell them exactly where. I felt like i was nuts. Always best to be proactive though! Sorry so wordy, just trying to warn others. I just urge EVERY woman(men too if they have any symptoms, as they can get breast cancer) to get regular exams and if you feel ANYTHING even mildly abnormal to get it checked right away even if past exams were normal. I was only a FEW months past my (normal results) annual exam. Really thought it was nothing serious, Didn’t even feel anything in my breast, just under my arm. That, and my breast itched often and sometimes felt very full like when I breast fed, but it was during my period so I blew it off thinking it was just hormones., Even the small lumps under my arm seemed to come and go. it was easy to blow off. As women, especially as wives and mothers we are used to putting ourselves last. I was really stupid. I’m very fortunate to be alive. My grading was the highest it could be, was moving fast! Done with my public service announcement. lol Good luck to you! ❤

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    1. I am so so glad you are okay! Yes I totally agree on everyone getting checked and not being self conscious or afraid to speak up for their health. Family history or not it can happen to anyone!

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  2. When I was diagnosed (here recently), I thought I would be the random 90% that it “just happens to” because the family history wasn’t there (that I know of). Because of my age (41) they did the genetic testing. I surprised both the doctor and the genetic councilor. Mine wasn’t the BRACA gene (though there is something up with my BRACA 1 gene as well it is VUE (meaning they don’t know what that mutation will do)) but a PTEN Mutation which put me at an 85% Risk of Breast Cancer an an additional 29% risk of a secondary cancer in my other breast. Way to be brave and get the tests and “know”. The one thing I would push for, if they say there’s “nothing” and you have dense breast tissue, insist on further testing, like a Ultrasound or an MRI with contrast. Mammograms aren’t the best for dense breast tissue.

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