Genetic Testing for BRCA 1 and BRCA 2

The nurse told me to swish and spit until I got to the fill line. Gross.

I vaguely referenced it here, but I didn't go into detail. My mom died of cancer when I was 19. She was first diagnosed when I was 11 - breast cancer, then ovarian cancer.

Her case fits the picture of a hereditary breast cancer. Mom was first diagnosed before age 40 (at 38). She first had breast cancer, then a number of years later was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, which was determined to be related to the original breast cancer. Also, she had several female relatives on her father's side who had either breast cancer or a combination of breast and ovarian cancer.

Ever since, the OB/Gyns have been on me to get a genetic test done. Until now, I refused. I had my reasons.  

Why I refused genetic testing for BRCA in my 20s

 First, I was young. Cancer could develop young, especially the hereditary types, but for some reason, I decided that breast cancer wasn't on my radar until age 30. Second, I didn't want the insurance companies to be able to use my genetic information against me. Third, I knew I would eventually want children, and I didn't want pressure to prematurely remove my reproductive equipment.

And...there was a fourth reason. Remember in The Matrix, where Cypher says, "ignorance is bliss," in between bites of juicy steak? If I had screwed up genes, I just didn't want to know yet. You don't go get genetic testing done because you're looking for something else to keep you up at night. I wasn't going to do anything about it at that point, so why bother?  

Why I finally decided to get tested

 Well, some things changed. I hit my magic number of 30, the age at which I promised myself I'd start thinking about these things.

As far as the insurance situation goes, some political moves have been made that take care of that concern. Since my mother's death, it has been made illegal on multiple levels to deny me insurance based on information from genetic testing. I'd have recourse based on the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 and the Affordable Care Act's stipulation that insurance companies must still provide insurance if the applicant has a preexisting condition - in case some judge somewhere decided that being a gene carrier in absence of the disease is the same as having the condition.

Then, there are the kids. We hit our minimum. Not necessarily our maximum, but if we had to declare our family complete, we would be okay doing that at this point.

And then, about knowing my status...ignorance is still bliss, but with the ability to take preventive action, I wouldn't feel so helpless and doomed.

I brought up breast cancer and genetic testing with my midwife at my 6-week appointment after Nugget's birth. I told her my reservations, and she explained the range of preventive measures that can be taken aside from surgery. Of course, she knew my family history and strongly recommended it.

"Even if you're positive, you don't have to go full-blown Angelina Jolie. We'll just watch you closer," she said.

Good enough for me. So, I scheduled an appointment to swish.    

Want to know the result? You and me both. You'll have to check back with me to find out!


Courtney Sperlazza | Get more at Project Courtney, Twitter and Facebook

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