Thursday, February 11, 2010

Positive News of the Negative Type

I received the results back from my BRCA1 and BRCA2 tests to find that I am negative for a mutation on either of these genes. This is good news.

A mutation in either of the two BRCA genes places a woman at a very high risk of developing breast or ovarian cancer in her life (as much as 87% versus 8% for the general population). So high is the risk and worry from these genes, that many women who test positive elect to remove their breasts and/or ovaries prophylactically just to ease their minds. Whenever someone in their 20s or 30s develops breast or ovarian cancer, as I have, a gene mutation is a possibility, so testing makes sense.

While, of course, it doesn't much matter for me personally at this point whether or not I carry these mutated genes (i.e. I already HAVE cancer so I don't have to worry about getting it), it matters a whole lot for my children, especially my daughters. I am quite relieved that they will not have the grave concern that accompanies a positive test.

Nonetheless, my children now have a "strong" family history of cancer with a parent diagnosed under age 40, so they are at increased risk still, but not nearly as much as if the gene test had been positive. As we all know, sometimes cancer "just happens". There is no way to know why or how. So it is with me.

Regardless of gene status, I have great hope that by the time my children are grown cancer will no longer be the fearsome disease is today. Keep on it, researchers!

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