I am talking about Genetic Testing for "mutations" in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. Its been in the press a fair bit recently, not least because Angelina Jolie opted for a prophylactic (risk-reducing) mastectomy because she tested positive for the gene defect and had a family history of both breast and ovarian cancer.
So I have been fortunate enough to be offered Genetic Testing. I do not feel fortunate however. Deciding whether or not to have the test has been a difficult decision to make. Knowing what ramifications it will have on me and my family if a faulty gene is found. Some people would choose to stick their head in the sand, they'd rather not know, but having been through what I already have, how can I? I am a Mother and no less, a Wife. I have a responsibility to my family, to do what I can to ensure a long, healthy life. The cancer I was diagnosed with last year was TRIPLE NEGATIVE breast cancer. This is the only reason I have been offered the Genetic Test as there is quite a strong link between triple negative breast cancer in women of my age and a fault with the BRCA1 gene.
Before my blood test was taken I had a counselling session with a Genetic Counsellor. She explained what would happen if the test found an alteration in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene. Every case is different, but for me, having already had breast cancer, if an alteration is found I may have up to a 50% risk of developing it again in the future and a 45% risk of developing ovarian cancer. Looking at my family history, my immediate female relations have thankfully all been clear of cancer, but my grandmother's 3 sisters all suffered with breast cancer and one had ovarian cancer as well. So my dear Granny could have been a carrier of the gene mutation, but miraculously escaped its effect and died of nothing more sinister than old age.
I must say I'm finding it difficult to write this post. I have revisited it a number of times and it has been over a month since my appointment with the Genetic Counsellor. There are so many mixed feelings running through my head, it's difficult to put it all down. The reality is this - I've had the blood test and I have to wait for 8-9 weeks for the results. Most of this waiting period has already passed by now, and I'm hoping for the results phone call during the first or second week of August.
If the blood test shows that a gene alteration has been found, I then have to consider my options. I will be offered an increased level of breast screening including a yearly MRI scan, but I may also have the option of a prophylactic mastectomy and/or oophorectomy (having my ovaries removed). Right now I'm of the opinion that although it terrifies me, I will have whatever surgery is offered to reduce my risk. Otherwise what is the point of having the knowledge. Knowledge is power. I can take charge of my life rather than sit and wait and dread that cancer may come knocking again.
BUT fingers crossed, no faulty gene will be found and I can get on with my life!!
If you were wondering, I do have plans to get a puppy but this blood test has definitely been a large spanner in the works! Once I am sure that the future is bright, a puppy dog will most definitely be joining our family. So, watch this space....