Monday, December 2, 2013

Cancer - Would You Want to Know Your Risk?

When I was younger, my grandmother was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. I never really understood what was going on except that she had cancer and went for chemo and lost all her hair. She pasted 16 years ago. Since then, cancer hasn't been something that was talk in our family. We were all pretty healthy.

Until this year. That nasty little C word reared its ugly head. My aunt was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Fortunately, early detection and treatment options have advanced by leaps and bounds and she is kicking cancers ass.

However, by recommendation of the doctors, they have suggested that all of my grandmother's children, most critically, the women, get tested to assess their risk with a BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 test. Those results will then dictate who in the next generation should be tested. My generation.

My mother had a full hysterectomy a few years ago, so her risk of ovarian cancer is, well, zilch. But unfortunately, that does not change my risk factor. Although it would be easier that way.

So, before going much further, I did a little research on what this test was and how it would assess my own risk in developing these cancers.

BRCA1 and BRCA2 are genes that produce tumor suppressing protein. These proteins help repair damaged DNA. If wither of these genes are mutated, they cannot properly repair damaged DNA and as a result the cells are more likely to develop into genetic alterations that can lead to cancer.

The BRCA1 and BRCA2 test for these mutations and determine the lifetime risk of developing ovarian and breast cancer. Once of my grandmother's daughters have been tested and she has an 84% chance of developing ovarian cancer and her and her doctor have decided a hysterectomy is in her best interest. 

I called our insurance company today and we are fortunate that they will cover the test at 100%. But now I sit and wonder, do I want to know? What would knowing my risk do? Would it change how I live my life? Would I live my life in fear? Would I elect to have a full hysterectomy? What if I am pregnant with a girl, am I potentially putting her at risk someday? 

So, I'm curious, would you want to know and how would it change you?

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