Joining FORCES is the FORCE newsletter with news, views and supportive information for individuals concerned about hereditary breast and ovarian cancer.
by Sue Baker
In August of 2015 I was diagnosed with stage 1 breast cancer; further tests revealed that I have a mutation in the BRIP1 gene. Because my health provider has only been testing for BRIP1 mutations for the past year or so, I consider myself lucky to have been able to be tested. It is sobering to think that if I'd been diagnosed with breast cancer even a year ago I might not have been tested for this mutation, and would have missed getting important information about further care that might well save my life.
The BRIP1 genetic mutation is a "moderate risk" mutation, and is connected to a higher incidence of breast cancer and ovarian cancer. While research on this gene is in the beginning stages, studies suggest that the risk of breast cancer in BRIP1-positive women is 22-33%, and the risk of ovarian cancer is 5-7%. Currently, there are various recommended courses of action, including heightened monitoring and prophylactic surgery.
Because I am BRIP1 positive, have a family history of premenopausal breast cancer (my mother at age 35), a history of melanoma, and had stage 1 breast cancer, my doctors recommended a bilateral mastectomy and an oophorectomy with removal of the fallopian tubes. I underwent the mastectomy in September and will have the hysterectomy in the spring. I've elected to have a full hysterectomy because I would rather have my uterus and cervix removed to eliminate any chance of cancer in those organs — it is a personal choice.
While my positive diagnosis of the BRIP1 genetic mutation was a shock, I am grateful for the information (knowledge is power, right?), and also for the opportunity to have prophylactic surgery. Not to be Pollyanna-ish, though, this entire thing has been a difficult journey that I would have much rather avoided.
For more information on the BRIP1 genetic mutation visit http://www.facingourrisk.org/understanding-brca-and-hboc/information/hereditary-cancer/new-genes/basics/brip1.php.
Sue Baker is the mother of a 14-year-old son, and is a professor in the Department of Teacher Credentialing in the College of Education at CSU Sacramento.
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