Lisa: Be Your Own Health Advocate
Lisa, age 41, talks about her decision to get genetic counseling and testing to find out if she had a BRCA gene mutation, and how the experience empowered her to understand her options and be her own best health advocate.
Lisa, 41, comes from a family that has been affected greatly by breast cancer. She has five aunts and one cousin who have been diagnosed with breast cancer, and one aunt who had ovarian cancer. Lisa’s cousin and three of her aunts were younger than age 50 when they were diagnosed.
After a breast cancer scare and a discussion of her family’s cancer history with her doctor, Lisa decided to get tested for a BRCA gene mutation. “I wanted to be better informed for myself and for my children,” she said.
Although Lisa’s genetic testingTests that involve analyzing DNA, the chemical database that carries instructions for your body’s functions, to look for a genetic change that may show a higher risk of getting a disease. did not find a BRCA gene mutation, her family health history still puts her at a higher risk of getting breast and ovarian cancer at a young age. This is because the negative test result only shows that a BRCA gene mutationBRCA stands for BReast CAncer gene. Any changes, called “mutations,” in these two genes (BRCA1 and BRCA2) can raise breast cancer risk. is not the cause of the increased prevalence of cancer within her family. It does not explain what is causing the increased breast and ovarian cancer risk in her family, such as a different type of genetic mutation. To address this risk, Lisa continues to take her doctor’s advice about breast cancer screenings and exercises regularly.
Lisa lives in California with her husband and two children. When she is not at work as a hospital pharmacist, she enjoys exercising, reading, and volunteering at her children’s school and in the community.