A breast cancer survivor shares her experiences with the BRCA gene.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Christina Applegate

The actress, Christina Applegate, has been in the news recently about having breast cancer at a young age, testing positive for the BRCA gene and undergoing a double mastectomy. In her interviews, she showed bravery and a sense of humor (saying she would have great-looking breasts in the nursing home compared to all the sagging women).

Two things I noted about this incidence. One, is how I see my parents still being affected by the stress they endured this year, worrying about their daughter having the BRCA gene and undergoing all the surgery. Mom stayed glued to the morning new shows when Christina was interviewed. Then, Mom responded by doing something she had never done before -- she posted an email on one of the national network station's site, saying that since Christina was carrying the BRCA gene, she needed to watch out for ovarian cancer as well, which was never mentioned in discussions about BRCA. For Mom to post an email to a national site told me that BRCA was still top of mind for her.

And, Mom is right. My oncologist told me during my recent visit that of her BRCA patients who have undergone the propylactic (preventative) surgeries, that 100 % -- repeat, every single one of us -- had pre-cancerous cells on the EXACT same spot on our fallopian tubes. One 100% of us. That tells you something -- that the BRCA gene is far more insidious than just breast cancer, and women need to take a hard look at the possibility of having ovarian cancer as well if they carry this gene.

The second thing that struck me with the Christina Applegate interview is her claiming to be "cured of cancer." I love her optimism and her spirit. I'm hoping she will never experience cancer again. However, the statement is false, since once cancer is in your body, you can't guarantee that there aren't other cancer cells lingering somewhere that chemo or radiation or surgery didn't eliminate.

So, although I had a double mastectomy and hysterectomy and reduced my chances significantly of developing cancer again...there's still that remote possibility there will be a stray cell that can develop into full-blown cancer. That's why I will never be able to take estrogen or consume soy products -- since estrogen/soy "feeds" cancer cells.

I am glad, however, that Christina Applegate appeared in public and shared her story -- who knows how many young women took note and began questioning their chances of carrying the BRCA gene. After being immersed in the world of BRCA this past year, I'm discovering the enormous lack of information about this gene among the breast cancer community -- especially among breast cancer survivors who are strong candidates for testing (those who developed the disease before menopause)...and especially among survivors with daughters.

A simple test could provide worlds of information that could not only save your life, but your daughter's as well.