The Importance of Knowledge In the winter of 2015, my mother was diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer. I was just a sophomore in high school at the time. As our family cared for her as she battled cancer, everything in my life became secondary. She was finally cancer-free after surgery and a grueling year of chemotherapy.
I received an online screening questionnaire prior to a routine OB-GYN visit this summer. I answered the usual questions on this form about my mother’s cancer history and what I knew about her. The purpose of the screening questionnaire and my eligibility for genetic testing were explained by my doctor during my OB-GYN appointment. This would be covered by my insurance because I have a long line of people who have died from cancer. I assumed that the addition of a few more tubes of blood would have no effect because I was already having labs drawn.
A genetic counselor contacted me by phone about two weeks later. She informed me that my BRCA2 mutation test result was positive, which increases a person’s risk of developing breast cancer. She scheduled a time for us to talk online.
On the show “The Bold Type,” I had previously heard about BRCA. The main character in this show decides to have a prophylactic double mastectomy to lower her risk of getting breast cancer. It was terrifying and overwhelming for me to hear and process this news for myself. I read countless journal articles and online resources before my genetic counseling appointment. I was obsessed with the various percentages and numbers that revealed my lifetime cancer risk and the measures I could take to lower or eliminate it. I found out that my BRCA mutation increased my risk of both breast and ovarian cancer. Having a lot of information is a great resource in this day and age of digital connectivity, but it can also be a huge burden at times.