The BRCA gene: Affecting lives and its ability to save them. A series.

The BRCA gene: Affecting lives and its ability to save them. A series.
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October is breast cancer awareness month. It's impossible to miss it - everywhere we see pink. We talk about finding cures, we walk. We fund raise and we hope. Yet, not enough attention has been paid to the genetics of breast cancer. This month, my blog will be devoted to raising awareness regarding the genetic mutation known as BRCA.

In May of this year actress Angelina Jolie announced via the New York Times oped page, that she had undergone a prophylactic (preventative) double mastectomy due to her being positive for the BRCA 1 gene. She was criticized, she was praised. Some said "she did it for publicity". Others thanked her for opening eyes. This announcement was made one month prior to my discovery of my second breast cancer in ten years.

Once I found out that I was positive for the BRCA1 mutation, I wrote about it and the importance of raising awareness. I'm not a movie star; far from it. I'm an every day woman whose life and the lives of my daughters, ages 25 and 23 can now be saved with this knowledge. When I had met with the genetics counselor I was hoping for results quickly. Based upon Angelina's announcement, the wait was longer than usual. Thousands of women were rushing to be tested.

There are certain criteria which point to the possibility of being BRCA positive. There is a quiz on the Myriad Genetics page (the company that does the testing) that may help you to determine if the test is right for you. There are support sites as well for those that have tested positive or have family members that have.

A major motion picture will soon be released telling the story of the discovery by Dr. Mary Claire King of this medical breakthrough. The organization has six months of exclusive rights to use the film Decoding Annie Parker to help educate the world about breast cancer awareness and treatment. More about the film.

Every woman out there that fits into any of the criteria for testing needs to meet with a genetics counselor and decide if the test is right for you. Unfortunately without fitting any criteria, insurance companies will not pay for the test. My insurance company only agreed to pay as this was my second case of breast cancer in ten years; my first being at the age of 45. This is a test that should require mandatory coverage by all insurance companies. It saves lives.

On December 3rd I will undergo the same procedure that Ms. Jolie had done, the PBM (prophylactic bilateral mastectomy). I will also have my ovaries removed as child bearing is long behind me. I am scared but confident that this surgery will buy me many more years on this Earth. I have my girls to watch get married someday and have their own children. I am scared for my girls; they must undergo the test due to my results. There is a 50/50 chance they will carry this gene.

The cycle must be stopped. The more women that are aware (men too!) of the mutation, the more proactive they can be about their future.  The organization Bright Pink is vital in addressing our younger generation of women and their options should they test positive. Young women who have not yet had children have an opportunity to stop the cycle altogether through a process called PGD. This preselection of embryos can eliminate those that carry the gene, thus stopping future generations from this increased cancer risk.

So each weekday this month I am honored to present the stories of women who have agreed to share their experience with having the BRCA gene (or have been tested). These wonderful women are of all ages, as young as 33. Some are grandmothers, some are doctors. But they have all taken action in their own futures. Please take the time to read and share these stories of courage, hope and strength.

This raising of awareness can save lives. You can be a part of that.

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