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Voices: To Test or Not to Test

BRCA1BRCA2genetic testing
Jun 13, 2013

To Test or Not to Test | Dee Sparacio

Recently Angelina Jolie was in the news, not for her latest movie, but for having a preventative mastectomy to reduce her risk of developing breast cancer.  Angelina had genetic testing done and had learned she carried the BRCA1 & 2 mutations. The mutations placed her at a higher risk for breast and ovarian cancer than the average women.  Jolie’s mother had passed away at the age of 56 due to ovarian cancer.

Since that New York Times Op-Ed piece many women have been questioning whether or not they should have genetic testing done. I faced that question in 2005. Based on my ovarian cancer diagnosis and knowing that both my sister and aunt passed away from breast cancer and my mother from a brain tumor, my gynecologic oncologist recommended that I speak with K, the genetics counselor at my cancer center.

K spoke with me during one of my chemotherapy treatments.  After studying my entire family history and creating a family pedigree she said that genetic testing was warranted. The decision though was up to me. I decided to have the genetic testing done. I felt that knowing which mutations I might have was valuable information for my future cancer treatment decisions. It would also help me be aware of additional cancer risks I might face and allow my doctors to design the best health care and screening plan for me. I also felt that the information was important for my daughter and her future.

A blood sample was taken and sent off to Myriad Genetics, Inc. A few weeks later I met with K and learned my results and the information has been helpful to me.

The National Comprehensive Cancer Network guidelines recommend genetic counseling and testing for all women with ovarian, peritoneal or fallopian cancer regardless of family history and the Society of Gynecologic Oncology supports those guidelines.

To Test was a good decision for me. If you are wondering if it will be a good decision for you please talk to your doctor or a genetic counselor.


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