Friday, 21 November 2008

2. Family history and BRCA1

So what made me investigate a cancer gene? My family history of breast cancer (and other cancers) which is pretty heavy-duty:

If you have one or two people in your family who have had cancer, it is highly unlikely to be a type of genetic cancer. Here is a link for Cancer Research that will give you excellent information if you are at all worried about this subject.

Cancer Research

So looking at my family history, it is hard to understand why a doctor would tell me I had little to worry about, but that's why I kept pushing to find out - for me.

What is BRCA1? Its known as the BReast CAncer and ovarian cancer gene. The BRCA part of my DNA is supposed to help repair damaged DNA but the BRCA genes are mutated and they put me at a risk of upto 85% chance of breast cancer and upto 60% chance of ovarian cancer development in my lifetime (to the age of 70). There is also BRCA2 which still carries a high lifetime risk of both ovarian and breast cancer but about 20% lower for both. It is known that the BRCA1 gene can trigger cancer in much younger woman than general sporadic breast cancer which tends to effect post menopausal women. With BRCA1 and aged 35 I feel like a ticking time bomb. It is not curable but loads of research is being done. Its only been identified since 1994 (see link below) but was a major discovery and a very imporatant one. At the moment though, there is no way of tweaking my DNA to repair the broken bits so I have to choose my path from here. Screening or Surgery?

My thoughts often play with the fact that I am a mutant, but only an 'identified' mutant. As my husband points out - I am not alone, there are many people walking around with genetic mutations its just that don't know about it. Not to worry you reader, but it is true but very unlikely. Genetic cancer is rare but I guess the knowledge of my gene mutation, although I wouldn't wish it and the worry it carries with it on anyone, it gives me options and hope.

Links - Cancer Research and Cancer Journal