Tick Tock

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My boobs are a ticking time bomb.

Let me explain.

I have a very strong family history of breast cancer. My mother is a 3 time breast cancer survivor. An aunt, also a breast cancer survivor. I've seen a breast specialist every 6 months for the past 10 years. Mammogram, sonogram and MRI once a year.

I am 37 years old.

My doctor has been pestering me to get tested for the "breast cancer gene" (BRAC Analysis) for years. This February, I relented and shortly thereafter learned that I am positive for the BRCA 2 gene. Women with the BRCA 2 mutation have:
- a 33-50% chance of developing breast cancer by age 50 (the general population has a risk of 2%)
- a 56-87% chance of developing breast cancer by age 70 (the general population has a risk of 7%)
- a 27-44% chance of developing ovarian cancer by age 70 (the general population has a risk of <2%)

Now, in addition to my twice-yearly visits to the breast specialist, I've added a gyn-oncologist to the mix. Ovarian cancer is a much peskier disease than breast cancer. While breast cancer screenings are not foolproof, they have a rigorous clinical history and are relatively effective. Breast cancer can be detected by a lump or a shadow on a mammo/sono/MRI. Ovarian cancer is much more nefarious, with annoyingly general symptoms including abdominal bloating and irregularity. Screening is possible, but not as effective as that for breast cancer.

Ten years ago when I began the process of special screening, I looked at it from a very clinical perspective. My genes are out to kill me, so I will do everything in my power to stop them. While the screening was nerve wracking, I never gave it much thought. I kept my appointments like clockwork and always assumed that the results would be negative.

Fast forward to February 6, 2007. After my first son was born, I felt it was my responsibility to not die. There was a tiny (very tiny, at the time) human being who depended upon me for everything. I couldn't get sick, take a vacation, work late or die. It was simply out of the question.

Ridiculous, I know, but that's what I believed (and sometimes continue to believe...).

In November of 2007, I had my first breast cancer scare. I had a central duct excision (basically, they cut out a cross section of my breast to examine the ducts). Thankfully, the growth was benign, but my approach to the bi-annual visits to the breast specialist was forever changed. While my life was always at stake, for the first time I actually felt like I had something to lose.

Fast forward to January 9, 2009 - now I had twice the number of reasons to not die.

I had my first MRI in 4 years yesterday (impossible to inject the body with radioactive contrast solution when you're pregnant or nursing). I forgot just how loud the entire process is. Actually, I don't think that I so much forgot as the sound took on a much more forboding tone. Each clank of the tremendous electromagnetic cylinder reminded me that I had something to lose. The test HAD to come back negative.

I passed both my mammogram and sonogram with flying colors this year. I'm certain that the MRI will get the "all clear" as well. The results will be in by Monday - maybe even by end of day tomorrow.

As Breast Cancer Awareness Month 2010 comes to a close, I encourage every BadAssMama - every woman - to take her breast health seriously. Perform your monthly self exams. Have a professional breast exam annually. If you have a strong family history of breast cancer, consider getting BRAC Analysis.

The goal of this post is not to instill fear, but to remind you that knowledge is power. When it comes to our health, ignorance is not bliss. Take action. Know the facts, and take care of yourself.

Be well. A message of health, courtesy of the BadAssMama.

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