Sunday, May 30, 2010

Is This Cancer Inherited?

Questions, thousands of questions. Where does cancer come from? Why do some get it? Why do some get certain kinds? Why? Most of those questions are unanswerable. Research is discovering more and more answers to others.

Shortly after Dad died from pancreatic cancer in 2006, I was talking to my gynecologist at my yearly exam, telling her about Dad and his brothers and sisters that died from other forms of cancer. She immediately asked if I'd be willing to talk to a genetic counselor about familial cancers. I agreed. Before long I had an appointment at the West Clinic in Memphis and talked to Eric. After getting a detailed history of what I knew about the aunts and uncles he began to explain how genetic mutation works. Suffice it to say, he suspected there may have been a mutation in my family. He recommended a test on Uncle Butch, because he is a breast cancer survivor. Yes, that's right, Uncle Butch and Uncle Ray - both breast cancer survivors. Aunts Jessie and Elma both died of ovarian cancer and Uncle Tommy of liver cancer.

After bribing Uncle Butch with a free ride to Memphis and a free lunch, he agreed to accompany me and give them a tube of his blood. (He's such a pushover!) In a few days his results came back positive for BRCA2. That stands for BReast CAncer 2 - a gene mutation that can be passed down that causes breast, ovarian, prostate, pancreatic, melanoma, gall bladder, lymphoma types of cancers. Sound familiar? I gave my sample of blood and I was negative!! The chances of contracting any of these forms of cancer WITH the gene mutation bumps a person to 80%. Without the mutation, I was at the 10% risk of the general population. My sister, Libby, was tested and she, too, was negative.

I did not think, after this test, that I would never get cancer but I sure was floored when I did. Even the surgeon that did the biopsy on the very small tumor that showed up in an ultrasound, was surprised. My first cousin, Kathy, was diagnosed with breast cancer about three weeks before I was. She too, tested negative for BRCA2. So what's up with this? She sees the same genetic counselor as I and they are running more tests on her blood sample. This may tell both of us about another type of mutation. Research on this subject is moving full steam ahead but there are still things to be discovered.

I will write more on this in later posts but for now, I am trying to hang in there with this chemo. There are several variables in my treatments and again I will tell more about that later. This verse means a lot to me this morning: Hebrews 13:15 - 16, "Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise - the fruit of his lips that openly profess his name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased."

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