I wish all genetic mutations were as nice as blue eyes.
Before I decided to get tested for the BRCA mutation, I did tons of online research to see what I would be up against if my test came back positive. During my research, I discovered tons of interesting information about why genetic testing is so important for people with a family history of cancer. Here are some of the facts I found most interesting…
1. Every year there are around 200,000 people diagnosed with breast cancer and 22,000 people diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Of those diagnosed, 5-10% are carriers of a BRCA mutation that is responsible for their cancer. Interesting to know… but this is what gets me most…
2. Over half a million people carry the BRCA mutation, but ONLY 4% know they are carriers. That means… 96% of BRCA+ people have no idea they are at such a high risk of developing breast, ovarian, or prostate cancer.
I don’t know about you, but I think that sounds like a TON of people who don’t know they are at risk.
3. You may be at risk of carrying a BRCA mutation if you have a family history of breast, ovarian, or prostate cancer. Although the risk is smaller, BRCA mutations have also been linked to pancreatic cancer and some forms of skin cancer.
4. Contrary to what many people believe… YOU CAN INHERIT A BRCA MUTATION FROM YOUR FATHER. Some people think that you can only inherit this gene from your mom and that is simply not true. Your father could have still passed the gene onto you even if he has not shown evidence of carrying the mutation.
5. If you suspect or know that one of your parents is a carrier of the BRCA mutation, it means you have a 50% chance of also carrying the gene. On the flip side, that also means you have a 50% chance of not carrying the gene as well.
6. If you have an extensive family history of BRCA related cancers and want to get tested… GOOD NEWS!! From what I have read, there is a chance that your insurance company will pay for your genetic test. Additionally, if you test positive for a BRCA mutation, your insurance company might cover preventative surgery or additional surveillance (after my deductible, my insurance has paid everything!).
7. Your insurance company CANNOT use genetic testing results as a means to refuse coverage because of a “pre-existing condition”. Laws have been passed to prevent that from happening.
8. You can have genetic testing done lots of places. If you are worried about being a carrier of BRCA, talk to your doctor or schedule an appointment with a genetic counselor. Most hospitals have genetic counseling departments that will collect a blood sample to be sent off for lab testing. I actually had my blood taken at my gynecologist’s office. They sent it to Myriad Labs and, once the results returned 3 weeks later, my doctor helped me come up with a plan of action.
After being diagnosed, it was easy to feel like carrying the BRCA mutation was a curse. However, getting tested and knowing I have the BRCA2 mutation is a blessing. It gives me the chance to take control of my life and try to beat cancer before it can beat me.
Knowledge is definitely power.