We’ve all seen the news, Angelina Jolie got a double mastectomy after finding out she had a mutated BRCA1 gene. It’s a preventative surgery, one that’s more common in the United States than anywhere else in the world. Basically, you remove all the tissue in your boobs so there’s nowhere for mutated cells to grow and cause breast cancer. A double mastectomy would be both boobs. (Not a fan of the word ‘breast’ – makes me think of chicken).
You can have a genetic test to see if you carry the mutated BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene. When defective, you have a pretty high chance to develop breast cancer. The test is covered by many insurance companies and the test is pretty simple – either a small blood test or an oral rinse.
Women with a BRCA mutation have:
– Up to a 50% risk of developing breast cancer by age 50
– Up to a 87% risk of developing breast cancer by age 70
– Up to a 64% risk of developing a second breast cancer
– Up to a 44% risk of developing ovarian cancer by age 70
My maternal grandmother died in her late twenties from breast cancer. In the sixties, breast cancer awareness wasn’t the rampant campaign it is today. Because of this, my Mom never knew her mother. When we looked up my family on Ancestry.com earlier this year, she couldn’t tell me anything about her, other than her name was Margaret Donahue. That’s the origin of my middle name, Katherine Donahue, a tribute to my mom’s mother.
Last week, the doctor recommended I get in touch with a breast specialist (awesome job – you work with boobs all. day. long.) and weigh my options. There are a lot of positives that can come from the test, having the peace of mind of no mutation or the knowledge of what’s ahead of you.
But: here’s where I’m hitting a wall. I’m only twenty years old, if I find out I have a mutation in my genes, I have two options. I can opt for a mastectomy and immediate reconstruction or I can leave it to chance. I like my boobs. I want the option to breastfeed my kids. In an ignorant way – I don’t want to know if I have the odds against me.
The doctor recommended even though I’m young, I should get the test. I don’t necessarily have to get a mastectomy right away – you can increase your self checks, mammograms, sonograms, and change your diet.
Would you get the test?