If you know anyone who’s had breast cancer, if you love anyone who’s had breast cancer, and if you are related to anyone who’s had breast cancer; then you might relate to this.
We have a lot of cancer in my family, leukaemia, breast, ovarian are the main types. We discovered a couple of years back that our family, on my mothers side, carries the BRAC1 gene. This means a greater likelihood of getting breast and ovarian cancer runs in the family. We’ve lost an aunt and a cousin to ovarian and two of my sisters have had breast cancer. Both of my sisters have the BRAC1 gene. My oldest sister prefers not to say, that’s just her style. And I don’t have the gene.
That being said, my family history still indicates that I’m at a higher risk than the average person for these types of cancers; it’s a numbers game.
Now, the thing I want to drive home is, you have to keep checking yourself. There is a very common sort of denial that sets in when someone has cancer in their family (any cancer). The weight of it hanging over your head becomes too much and you just don’t want to think about it anymore. The pain and suffering its caused people you love, the death. Screw it, you want to live, not think about signs of cancer every time you look in the mirror or feel a pang of something in your body.
Chances are, that bump or ache IS nothing and can be explained. But you have to stay on top of it. For me, the terror of doing a breast check and finding a lump was definitely something I started to avoid – but avoiding it, and then finding a lump months or years after it started growing is much, much worse. I remember my sister telling me the same thing, that she had ignored some signs that later turned out to be signs of a malignancy. We aren’t the only ones who do this, it’s called denial.
Most of the lumps you find will be benign, but with regular self-checks, even the ones that aren’t fine, will be caught early and dealt with EARLY; and life goes on. Cancer is not a death sentence the way it once was, but you have to balance the need to check yourself with the mental health of not living in fear every time you check yourself. I repeat, most of the things you find will be nothing!
If you know there is a prevalence of cancer in your family, but you’re not in a high risk program, go see your doctor and demand some kind action. I know a woman who’s mother and several aunts on her mothers side have had breast cancer. She doesn’t speak to her mother because her mother left her family when she was quite young. It is very possible her family carries the BRAC1 gene on her mothers side, but she has been avoiding self checks because, it’s terrifying. I gave her the same advice I’m giving here, most things will be nothing, but you have to know – don’t ignore things, don’t wait and don’t let a doctor blow you off if you have a family history; if you have breast or ovarian cancer in your family, demand the BRAC1 test.
Regardless of your current situation, if you are concerned about a lump or about your family history go to your doctor, explain your family history and have a discussion.
Check yourself, get to know what’s normal for your body, and don’t be afraid of changes – just be aware of them. They are probably nothing to worry about, seriously, most of them are nothing; but if they aren’t, you’ll be empowered to take care of it as soon as possible.
You got this. You’re harder to kill than you think.