After being involved with breast cancer awareness for many years, I made the decision to go in for hereditary cancer screening at Hoag. It took me several months to finally decide that I wanted to know. My mom’s breast cancer did not have the markers of hereditary cancer, but since my paternal grandma died from the disease at 52 and one of my paternal aunts developed it later in life, I figured that I should probably get tested for the BRACA gene. There had been so much discussion in the news about celebrities who had decided to lop off body parts as a preventative measure, I felt like I really needed to know what my chances were, instead of being blind-sided with it one day. So I made the appointment.
As soon as the appointment was scheduled, I immediately felt trepidation about it all. What good was it to know, if cancer was going to be an inevitable conclusion? Could the knowledge I gained really make a difference? Or is it better to go about my life in blissful ignorance and deal with it, if and when it hit me. I had to compile a list of all my relatives who had any type of cancer and the age at which they developed the disease. The list grew longer and longer, and it seemed that every branch of the tree had some cancer attached to it. If it wasn’t breast cancer, it was colon cancer, ovarian cancer, liver cancer, or leukemia. It was scary and depressing.
When the day of appointment came, I was shaking in my boots. I blamed my shaky hands on a coffee overload and tried not to fidget too much in the waiting room. Hoag is an amazing hospital and the Hereditary Cancer offices were beautiful and tranquil. My genetic counselor was really remarkable. I’m sure she could tell that I was nervous, and her calm demeanor really helped to keep me from jumping out of my skin. She explained the whole process to me and the different algorithms that the program used to generate the hereditary cancer statistics.
As it turns out, even though there was a plethora of breast cancer in my family, it all seemed to be late on-set which was less likely to be hereditary and more likely to be caused by other external factors. However, it did show that because I did have a family history of breast cancer, I am statistically at greater risk than the rest of the population for developing it. It was a great relief.
An upcoming class at Hoag on this subject
What You Need to Know March 7, 2016 6:00pm – 7:00pm