What to Do After You Test Positive for the Breast Cancer Gene
So, you’ve finally mustered the courage to undergo genetic testing. You’re preparing to find out whether you’ve inherited any harmful genetic mutations that increase your risk of developing breast cancer. You receive a call from the lab, a couple of weeks after the test, and are informed that you’ve tested positive for a mutation.
Breast Cancer Genetic Testing: The Impact of Testing Positive
Of course, such a piece of information is going to alter your life. Considering that nearly 1 in 8 women in the U.S. is at risk of developing breast cancer during their lifetime, it’s natural to feel scared. Also, you’re going to feel a surge of different emotions and face the dilemma of whether to share the news with your family.
But it’s important to remember that testing positive for a breast cancer gene mutation isn’t a death sentence. A BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation does increase your risk of developing breast cancer by nearly six times. However, it’s also possible that you may never have to battle cancer in your lifetime.
Instead of falling into a spiral of self-blame and depression, seek help from a genetic counselor, private GP, and other healthcare professionals to understand what your test results mean. Also, they’ll help you figure out the best preventative measures you need to take.
If you’ve tested positive for BRCA 1, BRCA 2, PALB2, or any other genetic mutation related to breast cancer, we’ve got you covered. In the following section, we’ve outlined a useful guide to handhold you through the journey of coming to terms with your results.
Consult a Genetic Counselor
Knowing you’ve tested positive for a genetic mutation isn’t enough. You need to understand precisely what a mutation means for your overall health. Also, you need to identify the next course of action to prevent the development of breast cancer. That’s where a genetic counselor steps into the picture.
Any standard laboratory will connect you with a genetic counselor before and after the test. Once you receive your test results, make sure you talk to the counselor to understand the type of mutation you’ve inherited. They’ll help you precisely assess your risk and recommend the right prevention and early detection strategy.
Stay in Touch with Your GP
The benefit of getting tested for breast cancer gene mutations is that you get more control over your future. It’s essential to regularly visit your GP for breast screenings. They’ll perform a mammogram or MRI to detect any signs of cancer. Also, you can learn how to perform routine breast exams at home.
Make sure you follow through on all your appointments and screenings. Also, consult the doctor at the earliest sign of a lump or any other breast abnormality. You can also talk to your GP and explore the idea of undergoing preventative surgery, such as a double mastectomy or salpingo-oophorectomy.
Weigh the pros and cons of each procedure and ask the doctor about its implication on your health and fertility. Depending on your age, you should also consult them about fertility treatments and options. For instance, if you decide to get your ovaries and fallopian tubes removed, you should consider freezing your eggs.
Embrace a Healthy Lifestyle
Genetic mutations are only one of the parameters that increase your chances of developing breast cancer. Other factors, such as smoking, alcohol consumption, and an inactive lifestyle, also increase your risk.
It’s wiser to consult a nutritionist and incorporate cancer-preventing ingredients, such as broccoli, turmeric, olive oil, blueberries, etc. into your diet. Avoid processed and red meats, as well as packaged junk food items that increase the risk of cancer.
Create a daily routine that involves plenty of physical activity. Apart from following an exercise regimen, you should develop healthy habits, such as walking to your workplace or taking the stairs to the subway. Practice proper sleep hygiene to ensure that your body gets plenty of time to rejuvenate.
Watch Your Mental Health
Knowing that you’re more vulnerable to a terminal disease, like cancer, can be emotionally exhausting. You’re going to live in constant fear and uncertainty. Also, if you have children and they too test positive, you might feel guilty about passing the mutation to them.
Alternatively, you may not know how to share the news with your loved ones, particularly your partner or spouse. You might also feel the pressure of letting your siblings and parents know so that they can get tested as well. All of these factors will take a toll on your personal relationships and mental health.
It’s a good idea to see a psychiatrist or therapist to ensure your mental wellbeing. They’ll help you accept your reality, as well as keep anxiety and stress and bay. Work with them to find the right outlet for the anger, disappointment, sadness, fear, guilt, and any other emotion you might be feeling.
A Positive Test Result Isn’t Your Cancer Diagnosis
Testing positive for a breast cancer gene mutation doesn’t mean you can’t live a normal life. With proper genetic counseling and medical support, it’s possible to evade the risk of cancer. Even if you’re diagnosed with cancer, your healthcare providers will have a clearer idea of the best course of treatment.
Have you ever considered getting tested for the BRCA gene mutation? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.