Yesterday, despite feeling completely miserable with my wisdom tooth recovery, I went to a consult with an oncologist to discuss my risk of being a carrier for the BRCA-1 and BRCA-2 gene. (A gene that predicts getting breast & ovarian cancer.)
There is breast cancer sprinkled throughout my grandparents' generation on both sides, and my grandma Pansy has quite a few cousins who passed away in their forties from it. Knowing this, and the fact that my mom's mom (Grandma Beverly) was diagnosed with breast cancer at 36, I was curious about my risk.
The oncologist we met with was amazing. She spouted facts like she was a teacher, and listened carefully as I gave her my family history. She said 12.5% of women will get breast cancer in their lifetime. (1 in 7) She said that most diagnoses of breast cancer is in women age 55-75 in their post-menopausal state. She said pregnancy before thirty reduces risk because pregnancy lowers your estrogen level for an extended period of time, which is good for cancer prevention. She said breastfeeding also lowers your body's estrogen, and is therefore also good for reducing breast cancer risk.
She said that because all the cancer is two generations above me, not in my parents' generation or mine, there is no increased risk for me. She said there are all these women everywhere on my family tree, and so far, none of them have had it, so she would be shocked if I had the BRCA-1 or BRCA-2.
She explained those gene mutations as protections that had been shut off. We are born with tumor protecting genes, and other immunities, and for some reason, in certain families, these illness fighting genes get turned off. Those fighter genes getting turned off (in the case of BRCA-1 & BRCA-2) increase your risk from 12.5% over your lifetime, to 87% chance of getting breast or ovarian cancer over your lifetime.
She suggested that I start getting mammograms at 40, and do monthly exams myself. I have not been good about this in the past, but am going to start. She also said that drinking will increase my risk, because it increases the amount of estrogen in your body, as does being fat. And the last bit of advice she gave was to exercise. She said two women the same weight will not have the same risk-- if one is an excerciser, she will be the one less likely to get cancer.
I cannot tell you how relieved I am to be at a reduced risk, and I am going to start treating my body right. I am thirty now, and it is time.
Meanwhile, I wanted to share with you all that the CHOCOLATE GENE is alive and well in the next generation, as you can see here.