Growing up, my parents always stressed the importance of being vigilant when it came to proper screenings and making smart lifestyle choices that could help decrease my risk of major diseases. One of my best friends, Carey Grayson, understood what I was going through. In recent years, she’s had a staggering number of family members undergo their own battles with cancer. Recently, I asked her to comment on her own thoughts about being in a high-risk cancer family. Below is her reply:
There are so many questions that people have about cancer. The problem is that it never occurs to anyone to ask them until their lives are touched somehow by the disease. I know because I have been there six times now.
I have had two aunts die from cancer in my lifetime — one from breast cancer and the other from brain cancer. Since then, two more of my aunts have been diagnosed with breast cancer. Last year when the third of my aunts was diagnosed was the first time that I had heard of genetic testing to determine predisposition for breast cancer. Why had I not heard of this before?
My aunt had the BRCA testing done and it came back negative for the gene. Unfortunately, this does not mean that I am not still at risk for developing breast cancer because not every woman with breast cancer has a BRCA mutation.
So, will I have the testing done? I am honestly not sure what the answer is to that question. I am afraid of what the outcome may be. It is a frightening thing to consider and I don’t want to make any decisions lightly. Of course, information is always one of the best weapons to have in any situation.
In the meantime, I am enjoying my life and trying to make healthy changes my most basic form of prevention. This is an approach that each of my family members is taking along with early and regular mammograms.
Still, there is much confusion for me and for everyone who has dealt with cancer. I can only hope that someday all of our questions about prevention and causes can be answered.