Over the past year, I have experienced some of the best moments of my life and the very worst. Unfortunately, my mum was diagnosed with breast cancer earlier this year. We were extremely lucky, it was caught early and could be treated, for this I am so thankful.
My grandmother, my mum’s mother was not so fortunate, she lost her life to breast cancer when she was just 38 years old. This is actually why I’m named Paula, after her and in her memory. Strangely enough, a few months prior to my mum’s diagnosis, she decided to get tested for the BRCA 1 gene mutation. Due to her strong family history she had been offered this test before but only decided to get it done last year. Whilst she was recovering from surgery, she got the tests results which confirmed that she had the BRCA 1 gene mutation.
The BRCA gene is a human gene that usually codes for production of tumour suppressor proteins. These proteins help with DNA repair and therefore stabilise cell’s genetic material. A mutation in this gene can mean that the protein production is impaired or that proteins that are made do not function properly. Cell’s DNA does not get repaired when damaged, the cell can become unstable and develop into cancer cells Mutations in the BRCA 1 gene have been closely linked to an increased risk in developing breast and ovarian cancers.
The BRCA 1 gene and preventative surgery was brought to the world’s attention in 2013 when Angelina Jolie had a double mastectomy to reduce her risk of developing breast cancer.
There is a 50/50 chance that I have inherited this gene mutation from my mum. Initially, I was sure that I would get tested, I decided that I’d rather know either way. However, after consideration, I have decided against getting tested. For me, a positive test result at this present moment in time, wouldn’t change anything.
I already maintain what I consider to be a healthy lifestyle. Exercising regularly, eating a healthy diet, meditating, not smoking or drinking alcohol are all minimising my risk of developing numerous chronic diseases including cancer. I think that I would like to have children and to be able to breast feed them. So personally, I wouldn’t consider surgery and I don’t think any health care professional would recommend it at my age.
Another fact that has heavily influenced my decision is that in my case, a positive BRCA gene test will not result in earlier screening. As I have a ‘high risk family history’, I will be eligible for regular breast screenings from the age of 30. This is the age at which women who test positive for the gene mutation are offered preventative screening too.
I believe in the law of attraction, that the mind is powerful and that your thoughts become your reality. I think that with my personality – someone who tends to worry and become anxious, if I know for sure I have the BRCA gene mutation, I will inevitably worry more about it. I believe this increased worrying alone is enough to negatively impact my health.
This is a difficult subject and I don’t for one minute believe that my decision is the right decision for anyone else. In fact, my sister has decided to go ahead with the test and I fully support her decision. Who knows, as I get older and as my situation changes, perhaps I will change my mind too. For now, I will make sure to stay aware of the signs and symptoms of breast cancer and do everything I can to keep my body healthy.
Please feel free to share your thoughts, especially if you been in a similar situation. If you notice any unusual changes to your breast, don’t hesitate to go get it checked out. Always better to be safe than sorry.