Well Being

Why Would Anyone Want To Get The Breast Cancer Gene Test?

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According to certain experts, women diagnosed with triple-negative (TN) breast cancer should be tested for faulty genes so they know whether family members will have a greater chance of getting the disease. I would be one of the women who falls into that category, but for me, I wouldn't want to know if I had this gene.

Based on a study by Cancer Research and The Institute of Cancer Research, women carrying the faulty BRCA1 gene have a 65% chance of developing breast cancer and a 40% chance of developing ovarian cancer by the time they reach 70, so it makes sense that some medical experts would want to forewarn women and their families if they are carrying this gene.

But here's the thing: I have a family history of breast cancer and doctors have recommended that I get tested for this “faulty” gene, but I am refusing. To me, finding out that I had this gene would just add one more thing to worry about in life (and who needs that?). And whether I get breast cancer or not is largely out of my control. Yes, I can get regular testing and screenings (which I do), and yes, I can make sure I eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly, don't become overweight and avoid all other risk factors (all of which I do), so what point would there be in getting tested for this gene?

Plus, finding out that I'm carrying this gene wouldn't definitely mean that I was doomed for breast cancer anyway. Apparently, a recent study of more than 300 women suffering from TN breast cancer, only one in five were carrying the BRCA1 mutated gene. So where does that leave the other 80%? If they weren't carrying the gene and still got breast cancer, then this doesn't seem to be a fool-proof method for finding out our true odds.

Nevertheless, researchers argue that all women under 50 who have been diagnosed with TN breast cancer should be offered a test for the faulty gene so they can alert their family members that they may have it too.

Professor Peter Johnson, chief clinician at Cancer Research UK explained the rationale:

It’s important that we identify women and their families who carry the BRCA1 mutations. They're more likely to develop breast and ovarian cancer, so armed with this knowledge, doctors can offer targeted screening and tailored treatments to these women.

He also says this testing could lead to “substantial reduction in the number of breast and ovarian cancers by offering preventative treatments for those who are at greater risk.”

Good point, and possibly true. But still, I wouldn't want to know if I had this gene. Although not everyone feels this way. We recently posted an interview with a healthy 35-year-old woman who discovered she had this gene and decided to have both breasts removed as a preventative measure against getting breast cancer.

Tell us what you would do.


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