Family medicine physician and sexologist Dr. Rachael Ross is one of the almost three million women in the United States with a family history of breast cancer. Just last year, Dr. Rachael’s aunt lost her battle with breast and ovarian cancer.
“I see it a lot with patients, losing loved ones, but when it happens to you, and that pain finally hits … then it hits you that this could happen to anyone,” Dr. Rachael says.
Dr. Rachael faces her fears and decides to get tested for the BRCA gene mutation. Inherited BRCA gene mutations are responsible for about five percent of breast cancers and about 10 to 15 percent of ovarian cancers.
“Rachael took a really brave step by testing,” breast surgeon Dr. Kristi Funk says.
While a positive result doesn’t mean that you will ultimately develop cancer, women who have the mutations face a much higher risk of developing the disease.
According to the Mayo Clinic, possible treatment options to reduce your cancer risk after a positive BRCA test result include:
• Increased screening (surveillance)
– Clinical breast exams every six months, including mammogram or breast MRI
– Become familiar with the normal texture of your breast tissue in order to identify potentially worrisome changes earlier.
• Take a medication
– Tamoxifen reduces the risk of developing breast cancer by 50 percent in women with higher risk.
– Raloxifene (Evista) helps reduce the chance of breast cancer in postmenopausal women at high risk.
• Undergo preventative surgery
– Surgical removal of healthy breast tissue
– Reduces breast cancer risk for BRCA gene carriers by about 90 percent
– Preventative surgery doesn’t eliminate all cancer risk.
A negative BRCA test result isn’t a get-out-of-breast-cancer-free card, however. “If you do not test positive for BRCA mutation, but you were high risk enough to take the test in the first place, we still need to step back and look at [how high risk you are],” Dr. Funk explains.
Watch as Dr. Rachael faces the moment of truth. Is she BRCA positive or negative?