Several years ago, upon learning that my mother had tested positive for the BRCA2 gene mutation; I found myself going through the test myself. A person who tests positive for the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation has an increased lifetime risk of developing breast or ovarian cancer.
My mother had undergone a double mastectomy and chemotherapy after a breast cancer diagnosis in 2003. She also felt it necessary to have this genetic testing down, as both my maternal grandmother and great-grandmothers had died from ovarian cancer. The women on my mom’s side of the family hadn’t escaped a cancer diagnosis for at least three generations.
I saw a genetic counselor and had blood drawn. I really didn’t think much about it in the time it took for the results to come back. Of course, I figured, I was going to be the exception.
Upon entering the room at Magee Women’s Hospital, I glanced down at a paper on the table, which was turned upside down. I knew the results then. The counselor then launched into options I should think about to help prevent further risk of cancer in the future; such as the possibility of a mastectomy and/or a hysterectomy. I shut down, not listening any further. After all, I was only 32.
I did share my results with my doctor, who proceeded to prescribe preventative yearly tests such as a yearly mammogram, a pelvic ultrasound, a breast MRI, and a CA-125 blood test. He briefly mentioned future preventative surgeries that could be done.
Which brings me to the day after Thanksgiving two months ago. Here my doctor laid everything out for me.
“You are done having children and almost 40,” he stated. “I would think about an oophorectomy.” (Removal of the ovaries) “What? When?” I asked stunned. “I’d have it done as soon as possible'” he replied.
Easy for him to say! He rattled off a lot of side effects and issues I would most likely experience after the procedure. As he goes down the list, I realize I am becoming more and more upset. What happened to, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it? I hadn’t had any medical problems and my last tests came back normal.
I hadn’t been nervous following my appointment with the genetic counselor, but here I sat, listening to someone tell me that there were no advantages to having this done; although I shouldn’t get ovarian cancer, sometimes people have been known to have cancer where their ovaries were.
My mortality washes over me like being drenched by a bucket of ice water. I should be thankful that I am aware of this increased risk of cancer and available preventative measures. I live my life feeling so young and alive- where has the time gone? I don’t feel 39. And going through menopause at 39? Scary. The horror stories abound- hot flashes, cold sweats, weight gain, mood swings, decreased libido…and hormone replacement therapy is not an option as there was a correlation between my mom’s HRT and the development of her breast cancer.
Two months later I am still weighing the options. I regret to say I as of yet, I still have not made an appointment with the doctor who would perform the procedure. I continue to find reasons why I can not have it done in the near future. Running a half marathon in May, a family vacation during the summer, and work of course, help me to avoid making this difficult decision. I don’t want to be pushed one way or the other, I want to find out all the pros and cons that I can, and then make the decision.
If anyone reading this has made this decision personally (one way or the other) or knows someone who has, I would love to hear from them. My friends and family have gone through menopause at a time when their body was ready naturally. I have found no one that can tell me their personal experience, only research articles and doctors (male I might add).
I’d love to hear readers’ thoughts on this subject, so feel free to send a response to this post.