My family is not large. My mother has one sister. I have one sister. My mother’s brother had two girls.
That’s it for the over 50 female population.
My mother’s mother had breast cancer. She died from it. That was in the era before self-exams. She caught it too late.
My mother’s sister had breast cancer. She had a mastectomy and lived another 30 years.
My mother never had breast cancer. She’s 92.
I had breast cancer, and like my aunt, had a mastectomy.
My sister has not had breast cancer. But her doctor talked her into getting a BRCA test. This makes no sense because nobody under 50 in our family has had breast cancer. Nobody has had ovarian cancer. No men have had breast cancer. We don’t fit the profile – but some lab made a small fortune for that test. Of course it came back negative.
I just received a phone call from my cousin, my uncle’s daughter. She just got diagnosed with breast cancer. DCIS. She had two lumpectomies. And her doctor tried to talk her into a BRCA test.
When I got breast cancer, our family looked like we had higher than average, but still random breast cancer. With the addition of my cousin, our cancer rate is now statistically meaningful. It looks like half of my grandmother’s post-menopausal female descendants have had breast cancer. My cousin and I have warned the next generations: If you’re old enough to have them, you’re old enough to check them! Every month. Without fail.
I have two girls. My sister has two girls. My brother has one girl. My aunt’s son has two girls. My older daughter has two girls. My younger daughter has one girl.
It feels odd to say this, but cancer in my family can be a simple matter of search and destroy; then get on with your life.
Cancer is a big scary word. But checking breasts every month makes as much sense as looking both ways before crossing the street. Do it, and survive. Even if you don’t have cancer in your family.
Yes, I’m on my soap box!