Genetic Counseling

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Brian noticed that her hands were shaking as she walked into the room. I don't know if it was because every one of these conversations she has must suck or if she had too much caffeine and not enough lunch. Either way, this was going to be an interesting conversation. 

Our genetic counselor had the less than wonderful job of explaining all our options today. There are options, and I'm in no rush to make a decision as to what should be done just yet. I don't have cancer, so I have time. I have time to research and study and interview and pray and gain the knowledge that I need to make the best decision for my body and my family and our future. 

That's the weird thing about genetic testing. A mutation doesn't mean you will get cancer for sure, it just means that you'll get cancer almost for sure. What a strange knowledge to have. 

Because I am a BRCA 1 and 2 carrier, I have a 80% chance of developing breast cancer and a 30% chance of developing ovarian cancer over my lifetime. The general population's risk is 12% for breast cancer and 2% for ovarian cancer. It's not the best odds, but it is what it is. 

Starting immediately, I'll have clinical breast exams every 6 months and an annual mammogram and breast MRI screening. I'll also have to have transvaginal ultrasounds and a blood test every 6 months to look for ovarian abnormalities. 

But I'll also need to seriously consider a Mastectomy (which would reduce my breast cancer risk by greater than 90% depending on the type) and/or a Hysterectomy (which would reduce my risk of ovarian cancer and additionally reduce my breast cancer risk by 50%). 

Those are serious surgeries that need a lot of thought, prayer, and education to make a decision about. Luckily, I'm not alone. There is support for women facing Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer. There are two different organizations that exist to support women with a diagnosis like mine. 

F.O.R.C.E stands for Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered and Bright Pink which is the only national non-profit organization focusing on the prevention and early detection of breast and ovarian cancer in young women, while providing support for high-risk individuals both exist to provide support to women like me, and for that I am grateful. 

Plus, there are women that I know personally who have gone through this same thing who have reached out and offered their words and experiences to share with me. There is nothing like that. 

From here on out, I'm a book worm. Researching, searching, praying, and asking the Lord for the best option for me. Today begins a new journey on which I will choose to be braver than I feel. 

Being brave......

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