Friday, October 28, 2011
The Breast Cancer Gene
It is Breast Cancer Awareness Month after all... I have a ton of breast cancer in my family: my mom (survivor), aunt (survivor), and Maternal Grandmother (deceased, lung and breast cancer). My mom was only 43 when she was diagnosed. Because of our family history, my mom got the whole genetic scan for the BRCA breast cancer mutations and was found to have a mutation on the BRCA 2 gene (or is it a chromosome?). Since then my aunt, uncle, sister, and myself have all been tested for that specific mutation and we are all positive for it. I really am totally fine with this. Because of my family history I have always known that I have a very increased risk for breast cancer and the gene just confirms the risk. The upside is that is qualifies us (my sister and myself - we got tested together and are following the same preventative treatment plan) for closer monitoring which is great.
There are 3 basic options for women like my sister and I.
Option 1: prophylactic surgery
The most aggressive option is a prophylactic double mastectomy and oophorectomy. (Remove the breasts and ovaries before they have a chance to become cancerous.) I know that some women choose this option, but it's not for me. Although, I will have my ovaries removed after I have kids since cervical cancer is very difficult to detect.
Option 2: chemoprevention
Taking one of the breast cancer drugs as a preventative measure has shown success. But these drugs also have side effects and they haven't been studied over very long periods of time. Maybe we will consider this when we are older.
Option 3: increased monitoring
This is where my sister and I are starting. We both had our baseline Breast MRI this past summer which we will repeat each year following. Our doctor suggests this starting at age 25 for women who are positive for the BRCA mutation.
Mammography is not very successful on young women because our dense breasts make it harder to detect cancer. The breast MRI is clearer, but has a high rate of false positives. This is why women with a normal risk do not receive screening before age 40.
The bottom line: You are a better breast cancer detector than a mammogram or an MRI. Check yourself at the same time each month and do not ignore suspicious lumps!
A final note. I think it's great that so many companies support breast cancer research, but please make sure that you read the fine print before buying "pink" products. I only buy products where 100% of the proceeds go to the cause. It's not right for companies to be making money off of "causes" like cancer prevention.
Jennifer Anniston's shirt for Ford's Warriors in Pink is a great option. 100% of the proceeds go to Susan G. Komen.