During one of my check-ups, a genetic counselor came to talk to me about genetic testing. Young women with breast cancer have an increased risk of having a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation.
BRCA1 and BRCA2 are human genes that produce tumor suppressor proteins. When either of these genes is mutated, cells are more likely to develop additional genetic alterations that can lead to cancer.
I discussed the test with my parents. I knew that if I tested positive for the mutation, my mom and sister could seek genetic counseling and decide if they wanted to get tested as well.
Also, if I tested positive my risk of developing breast and/or ovarian cancer was greatly increased. If this were the case, the genetic counselor suggested thinking about a bilateral mastectomy and a prophylactic ovary removal to prevent another breast cancer and ovarian cancer.
My mom’s recommendation was to wait until I was done with my treatment to get tested. She thought that waiting for the test result was going to create anxiety that I did not need at that moment.
Without letting her know, I told my nurse to get the blood sample to send out for genetic testing during one of my treatments.
The results take about 2-3 weeks and can be positive, negative or ambiguous.
My mom was right. Waiting those 3 weeks for the results gave me so much anxiety. I kept thinking that if my result was positive I had to go in for another surgery and that I was at a higher risk for another cancer. Wasn’t I going through enough already?
I tested negative.
Now that I could rule out that my breast cancer was not the result of a genetic mutation, I felt a little relieved. The most common cause of hereditary breast cancer is an inherited mutation in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, but that was not my case.
What was it then? Why was this happening to me?
A risk factor is anything that affects your chance of getting a disease such as cancer.
Some of the risk factors can’t be changed such as being a woman, ethnicity, age or genetics. Others can – such as being overweight, lack of exercise, smoking or eating unhealthy foods.
I’ve always lived a healthy lifestyle. I eat well, I have never been overweight, I exercise regularly, I don’t smoke and I only drink alcohol socially. I still got diagnosed with breast cancer.
My youth and my healthy habits were key during my treatment, though.
I was not ecstatic when I heard about this test. I did not want to get tested at all. I only did it because of my mom and sister. I was the first one in my family to get diagnosed with breast cancer, so I wanted to make sure it was not due to a genetic mutation.