Genetic Screening and Breast Cancer
Could you be at a greater risk of developing Breast Cancer? Well some women are, and some women are getting genetic counseling and screening. Would you do it? That is a monumental question isn’t it! When there is a Family history of Breast Cancer and it is determined to be the BRAC type, some women are indeed getting such screening and when they do so, they will have a report that can either encourage them to do something at an early date or to just live like a cancer survivor. The report tells them if they have the mutated gene BRAC and give them a likely percentage of developing Breast Cancer. You start this procedure with visiting your Family Doctor, and releasing all pertinent information of why you feel you need this screening carried out.
What do I mean when I say that, well once screening has been conducted, the woman will have a percentage of chance. When the Family history has gone back for years with Breast Cancer being prevalent in the Family, the risk is even higher! What should a woman do in this instance?
In some cases although Breast Cancer was diagnosed it was not concluded as the BRAC form…simply because BRAC screening wasn’t being done in those days of old! However it can be done now and for women that know there is more than a slight chance of getting Breast Cancer and perhaps from that will stem other cancers in the female organs, what are they to do?
These women can be at any age in their life, and tend to treat themselves as cancer survivors even though they do not have the cancer at this time! Why, you ask, because if it is the BRAC form it is almost 100% sure that these women will get one form of breast cancer….and when they have seen it take its course in their family, when a woman has to live out her life knowing this, most women want to know their chances for survival, and at a early age more than later in life..for sure if this BRAC is in their bodies, which is a gene mutation, the news usually is never good.
BRAC is in the class of genes known as tumor suppressors and women with this gene usually have strong family history of breast and ovarian cancers which have a tendency to come on before menopause. If a woman finds herself in this predicament, they really want an answer to their fears of developing any type of breast cancer or cancer in any of the female organs, the uterus, cervix, ovaries and even in the tubes.
From reading medical journals according to the National Cancer Institute in the US, predict 12% of women will develop breast cancer at some time during their lives. However they also have predicted that 60% with a BRAC mutation will develop cancer in their female organs, most usually breast cancer, on occasion ovarian cancer. You can see that it seems to tie in with the female hormones, and we all know that starts to change before full blown menopause. It is estimated that in Canada 23,200 in 2010 will be diagnosed with some form of breast cancer, and an estimated 5,300 will die of the disease.
So what is a woman to do? Most women feel that their breasts define femininity! It takes a very brave women to undergo the test, to even have the acknowledgment that she has the BRAC genes, the mutated ones. Most women who know what this has done to women in their family, live their lives as if they were cancer survivors, so in my mind the only way to be sure is to have the screenings. Why live every day of your life feeling that way when you may not have the mutated genes!
In a recent case of a family with 4 girls, now women, 2 had the BRAC genes….Two did not show any mutation at all! What are the those women to do when it is so prevalent in their family. Now for the other side of the coin, to the BRAC mutations! Not every cancer will be the result of the BRAC mutation and not every woman with BRAC will have cancer or will all female family members have the gene! Also if a woman chooses a double mastectomy due to her having the BRAC gene, there is no guarantee that the surgery will eliminate her risk of breast cancer! Decisions…decisions and these women once their fate is known, must make their own decisions knowing full well all that has been spoken about in former paragraphs.
One woman, I know who made her decision lives the rest of her life knowing she did the right thing, at least that has left her mind at ease, and I would proudly acknowledge that person, for her braveness and strength to undergo surgery in spite of all that has been said here.
Other decisions more daunting are those about possible hysterectomy because of the risk of ovarian and cervical cancer. Is it a good idea? Well some women put it off as long as possible (due to their particular circumstance) due to the possible risk of osteoporosis. Yes, without the female hormone you are at greater risk of osteoporosis.
Some women say just wait it out, but what if it only comes on in your forties, you are not in menopause, and because of the medication (antibodies) you have to go on after breast surgery you may have to have induced menopause. Is it better to have the surgery when you are younger? These poor women have a lot of decisions to make in their life, that could be totally mind boggling.
It is my opinion that they alone, or with their partners, and Doctors have to make some sort of decision and if they truly at that time feel it is the right decisions they should never look back, because at least their mind can breath a sigh of relief, and they can get on with the rest of their life.
If you wonder why I am writing about this, well, my daughter went through breast cancer, not BRAC but none the less a triple whammy as the surgeon put it, and there is no breast cancer in our family for the past 3 generations…so I totally feel for these BRAC women and want to acknowledge them for the braveness they show in their decisions, I know because my daughter had to make some of those same decisions. It is totally heart breaking for a Mom to witness what a woman has to go through, at a much younger age than myself.
Breast cancer or any cancer can only be survived through awareness, and early detection, so please be wise, and do all you have to, thus insuring your fight will not have to be too invasive by your cancer being caught early enough.