These days I can hardly remember what we did over the weekend or that I need to grab milk from the store. But, for some reason I can remember a day years ago when a college classmate spoke about the discovery of the BRCA genes. It was the first time I had learned that there was a genetic link between breast and ovarian cancer.
Honestly, I don’t remember much more about her presentation because I thought the subject matter didn’t pertain to me. In my mind, I thought about my family and we didn’t have a history of breast or ovarian cancer so I mentally checked out.
I’m asking you not to check out today.
What is BRCA?
BRCA1 and BRCA2 are human genes involved with cell growth, cell division, and cell repair. Although they are most commonly associated with BReast CAncer, approximately 15% of women with ovarian cancer also have BRCA gene mutations.
I was given the option to undergo genetic testing for the BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutation when I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008. Considering my young age, the doctors felt that genetic testing was necessary for answers. The process was relatively easy. It was only a few weeks after submitting a blood sample that we sat with the hospital’s genetic counselor who throughly went over the results. I had tested negative for both the BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutation.
I have learned a lot about the BRCA genes over the last several years. I still kick myself for not paying more attention in class that day and for assuming that since I didn’t have a family history of cancer that I was off the hook.
As a former cancer patient, it is not uncommon to share your BRCA status. I think because we’re all very interested in understanding this complicated disease. Several of my survivor friends are BRCA positive while some are not. I even have two friends who are BRCA positive but have NOT had cancer and luckily with that knowledge they are able to better manage their health.
Very simply, being aware of your BRCA status can empower you in making choices for your health and preventative breast and ovarian care.
Facts About BRCA:
– Women with BRCA gene mutations have an increased risk of developing ovarian cancer.
– In the general population, 1.4 percent4 of women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer, while up to 40 percent of women with BRCA 1/2 mutations will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer in their lifetime.
– An estimated 15% of ovarian cancers are linked to BRCA mutations.
– BRCA gene mutations can play a key role in serous ovarian cancer, the most common form of ovarian cancer.
– Nearly one half of women with ovarian cancer who are BRCA-positive have no significant family history of breast or ovarian cancer.
Thanks for not mentally checking out. Learn more about BRCA and the risks for ovarian cancer at My OC Journey. While my experience was specifically with breast cancer, the link between BRCA and breast and ovarian cancers is very important to the overall health of women. Educate yourself, share with your friends and family, and #beBRCAware.