Taking control of your genetic destiny

When I was 18 years old, I tested positive for the BRCA 1 mutation for breast and ovarian cancer. Testing positive for the BRCA 1 gene means that an individual has an 87 percent chance of developing breast cancer in her lifetime, and a 60 percent chance of ovarian.

I was tested for the gene because my mother tested positive. She decided to take the test because her mother had been through breast cancer twice. However, my grandmother ended up testing negative for the gene; it turns out that my grandfather passed down the BRCA gene to us. We are also Ashkenazi Jews, which is another common characteristic of carriers of BRCA.

It’s not common for a college student, who her whole future to look forward to, to worry about things like cancer. But I’m glad I know. My knowledge of this gene makes me realize how precious my life is, and how I have to take care of myself. It also empowers me to keep on top of mammograms and monthly check-ups, and basically guarantees that if I do get cancer, I will catch it early. I encourage anyone who has a history of breast cancer on either side of the family to meet with a genetic counselor and discuss the possibility of getting tested.

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