Updated: Sep 30, 2020
So October is breast cancer awareness month. Obviously we aren’t there, yet, but getting close. I recently had a friend ask me about BRCA testing. Her mother had breast cancer at a young age and unfortunately passed because of this. Well, she is starting to approach the age of her mother when she was first diagnosed, and of course thinking about it.
Breast cancer is the [second] most common cancer in women (skin cancer is actually the most common). 13% of women (1 in 8) will be inflicted with breast cancer in their lifetime. Fortunately, there has been quite a bit of research and many great advancements. The survival rate for localized breast cancer is 99%--this is amazing!
Though what about genetically inherited breast cancer, aka BRCA (thank you to celebrities like Angelina Jolie for bring awareness to this). One thing to know is there are MANY causes for genetic breast cancer, not just BRCA, though this is the one that is most in the public eye. Actually, the statistics for survival are very similar! This is huge. Over 95% of people (yes men can get breast cancer too), will survive from breast cancer!
So back to my awesome friend—her question was, should I get tested?
Well, my first answer back, is—what are you going to do with the information? If it is negative, well great, you don’t have a BRCA mutation…If it is positive, are you going to have prophylactic mastectomy and oophorectomy (ovary removal)? Will you live in fear every day just “waiting” to get it? Will it be the ticket you need to start getting mammograms? What if you don’t do anything? What if you don’t get screened, will that cause you angst every day being unaware? They say ignorance is bliss…
Whew, breathe! So after I rapid fire ask these questions, and before an answer can be given—THERE IS NO RIGHT ANSWER, only what is right for you. Also, your gut response answer doesn’t have to the end-all, be-all of answers. You can change your mind.
Though this is a very personal decision, it can be a joint one. Talk with family, friends, doctors, your dog—
Point being—breast cancer (as all cancer) is real and scary. This is not something you have to deal with alone. If you have questions, ask your doctor—it’s our job!
…until next time, #IrishDoc07