After my mother was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, we learned for the first time that a BRCA gene mutation runs in our family tree. At the time, I did not know what BRCA meant nor had given any thought to my own risk of developing cancer. I was 27 years old and a new mom to twin girls. It was not lost on me that I needed to learn more about my risk, to understand my family health history, and to figure out whether I also carried this genetic mutation. Knowing would mean that I could be proactive about my own health and that I could pass valuable health information on to my daughters (and son) when the time was right. I made the decision to see a genetic counselor.
My genetic counselor and I reviewed the health information about my family that I had gathered, looked over statistics, had a thoughtful conversation about the genetic test I would take, and discussed what options were available to me should we learn that I carry the BRCA mutation. He also connected me with resources, like Bright Pink.
When the test came back, I learned that I carry a BRCA mutation. Conversations with my genetic counselor, healthcare professionals, and women at Bright Pink helped me feel like I was part of a team. My team had a clear, decisive offensive strategy to beat this gene. Being BRCA positive can feel overwhelming at times, but having knowledge and a great team can help you to see your opportunity to take control of your health, be proactive, and feel empowered.
Here are my tips if you are considering genetic testing:
1. Assess your risk.
- Go to assessyourrisk.org. This short quiz asks you questions about your personal health history, your family health history, and how you live your life to give you your baseline risk for breast and ovarian cancer as well as action steps.
- Gather your family history from both your mom AND dad’s sides before completing Assess Your Risk–it will give you a clearer result with personalized follow up recommendations.
2. Meet with a genetic counselor or a healthcare professional to discuss your family tree, understand your potential risk level, and various options for being proactive.
3. Establish a support system. Whether family, friends, a counselor, or online communities like Bright Pink’s Support Community on Facebook, having a system in place will help ensure that you can find the support you might need as you prepare to receive and act upon your genetic testing results.
Bright Pink is here to support you on your journey towards personalized prevention. Bright Pink has amazing resources on their website, or you can visit ExploreYourGenetic.org to learn more about your genetics and genetic testing.