BRCA just stands for "breast cancer," and the 2 is because so far there are two mutations that have been isolated that show a much higher risk of breast cancer. (The other mutation... can you guess? It's called BRCA1.) If you talk to doctors about it, they pronounce it "bra-ca." Anyway, in case you don't know me in real life, you might not be aware that my mother died very young of breast cancer; she was 32 at diagnosis and 45 when she died. Primarily because of her but also because there are other breast cancers in our family (such as both of my grandmothers), I was urged to go for genetic screening, and the result is that yes, I do have "the gene," as they call it. It's actually a mutation on my 13th chromosome (BRCA1 is on the 17th, fyi) on the tumor suppressor gene.
I'm now going to have screenings in the form of MRIs, mammograms, and/or ultrasounds every six months. I am not complaining. A mammogram is really NOT that bad, especially when you consider that BRCA2 raises my odds so much. Some stats: The average woman has a 12% risk of breast cancer at some point in her life. Because of the BRCA2 thing, I now have a 60-80% risk; that's what the American Cancer Society says. The literature from the testing company says as high as 87%.
There aren't many things I can do about this that aren't drastic. Besides the increased screenings, which, again, I really don't mind, I am being encouraged to consider having a double mastectomy. I have already decided that if I ever end up with a malignant tumor (so far my lumps have all been benign) that this is the way to go. However, I am so not ready to do this if I am not sick. I have a consultation set up with a plastic surgeon on Monday to discuss it, but that doesn't mean I'm going forward with it. I just want to gather this information now, while I am not sick, and therefore still have time. I don't want to have to rush into anything down the road if these things become necessary.
What freaks me out a little, though, is how much more comfortable I am becoming with the idea of doing this. Again, I am not ready to commit to anything. But I do see this procedure in my future, and I seem to be getting more OK with that fact. To look at it more positively, I'm looking at it this way: These are options my mother didn't have. She had no idea that she had a genetic predisposition (although we don't technically know for sure that I got the gene from her), and didn't have any options for prevention. Options are good.
On a totally related note, my sister and a couple of friends and I are going to be doing the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk in Hartford on 10/21. Our team is called Storming the Castle. If you're local you are more than welcome to join us! :)
Here is the page where you can make a donation. Even a $5 gift helps! Many thanks to those who have already supported our team.