Joining FORCES is the FORCE newsletter with news, views and supportive information for individuals concerned about hereditary breast and ovarian cancer.
by Lara Diamond
After inadvertently testing positive for a BRCA2 mutation, my life was thrown into turmoil. At first, I wished I didn't have this information, but when my first breast MRI — ordered only because of my newly found BRCA status — revealed what turned out to be stage 1 breast cancer, I realized how important this information would be to my relatives.
Being a genealogist, I pulled out death certificates and obituaries that I'd been gathering for years. I was able to determine that the gene mutation likely came from one of my greatgreat- grandfathers (he was married 3 times, and children and grandchildren from all three wives had cancer at young ages). Not only did I reach out to my immediate family, but I was able to reach out to more distant cousins as well to let them know of this mutation in the family.
One branch of the family already knew they had a mutation, discovered after a cousin's ovarian cancer diagnosis. However, they hadn't reached out to my part of the family, since we were descended from a different wife. I explained how mutations are just as likely to come from men as women, a fact that too few understand.
I was able to tell my cousins how the knowledge of my having this mutation caught my cancer at a much earlier stage than it would have been otherwise. My reallife demonstration of the power of this knowledge led dozens of my relatives to test; in fact, my genetic counselor (whose name I had given everyone) asked me what I said to have so many people call her within a week for an appointment. Many relatives did test positive and can now be proactive with their health.
Lara Diamond is a BRCA2 mutation carrier, a mathematician and a genealogist.
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the issues of hereditary breast or ovarian cancer. Tell us how you feel, how you
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