BRCA2 positive. It was something that I never had even heard of or thought had anything to do with me, until recently. Little did I know, just one year ago, that cancer genetic research would have such a huge impact on my life!
Let me back up a little bit and share a bit of my story. Seven years ago, I watched from afar as my aunt battled breast cancer. She went through chemo and radiation, and ultimately beat cancer. This brought the reality of cancer closer to home. Then three years ago another aunt was diagnosed with cancer. This time, I watched from a much closer perspective, the suffering and hardship that one goes through when battling cancer. Just one year later, yet another aunt was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Because of the strong history of breast cancer on my father’s side, my father and his 4 sisters all decided to test for the BRCA gene. Three of his sisters tested positive for the gene, as well as my father. This meant that I had a 50% chance to testing positive for the BRCA gene.
Unfortunately, I tested positive. What does this mean, you might ask? Having a BRCA 2 mutation means that I have a nearly 90% chance in my lifetime of getting breast cancer. It also means that I have about a 30% chance of getting ovarian cancer and a higher likelihood of colon cancer.
Not so great news… It has taken a while to let all of this sink in and think through my options.
The current recommendation for BRCA positive women is preventative double mastectomy and preventative ovary removal. By having these surgeries, a person can reduce their risk of breast and ovarian cancer to about 10%, which is the national average.
It is a tough decision…One that is deeply personal. At this point, I am planning to have both preventative surgeries to minimize my risk of cancer.
This decision has come as a result of many hours of research, talking with many different doctors, as well as talking to other BRCA 2 positive women about the pros and cons of having these surgeries.
It has also come as a result of many hard conversations with my husband about how this will impact our family. Each of these surgeries requires a considerable recovery period. The ovary removal surgery, to preemptively reduce my risk of ovarian cancer, means the loss of fertility and has significant implications for our family. A double mastectomy and reconstruction is a pretty intense surgery.
All that to say, this has not been an easy decision.
But, I do feel at peace about my decision to have surgery to reduce my risk of cancer. I understand that this does not eliminate the risk of cancer. But, by having preventative surgery, I am reducing my risk of breast cancer from close to 90% to under 10% in my lifetime. The risk ovarian cancer is also greatly reduced.
Even though this has been a hard and painful journey, I am thankful for genetic cancer research. I am thankful that it does provide women with options to reduce their risk.
If you have a family history of breast cancer, I urge you to talk to your doctor about this and consider getting tested for the BRCA gene. Knowledge is power, as they say. With knowledge comes responsibility, but it also provides choices. I feel blessed to live in an time and place where I do have choices.
If you are interested in learning more you can visit Facing Our Risk which is a great resource on this topic.
[typography font=”Satisfy” size=”24″ size_format=”px”]Written By: Jenny Mullins[/typography]
Jenny Mullins is a wife, mom, sister, daughter, and lover of all things pumpkin! She can often be found reading a good book or playing outside with her 4 year old daughter. She lives in sunny Tempe, Arizona.
This is a good article and walking the reader through the process you went through took courage. I do want to point out that everyone doesn’t have a choice. I work with low income women (primarily immigrants and refugees) and this test is not covered by insurance and is costly to get. Even if the women can get the test, there is no way they can afford the surgeries, much less the reconstruction. So yes, it’s a gift to have a choice in this issue, but despite the test being available, other’s don’t have the same choice.
You are so very right. Thanks for pointing this out. I am so very blessed to even have the resources to get tested. But, there are so many who do not. Thanks for bringing up this point.
That’s a brave story – where did you get tested?
I went to my doctor’s office for the blood test. They mail in the test to a company called Myriad Labs, which I believe is currently the only lab that is running the test currently. Thankfully my blood test was covered 100% under my insurance because I had such a strong family history. You can always call your insurance beforehand and ask if they cover BRCA testing. They usually will not cover it if there is no family history.
Jenny thanks so much for sharing your story with us. I hope your bravery and openness helps other women to feel that they can do the same. Thank you!