BRCA: Taking control, I have the power: Why I decided to have a mastectomy and reconstruction.
What is right for one person may not be right for another.
That is what I always tell others when I share my decision to have a prophylactic mastectomy. We are each individuals and the decision is very personal. I also share the importance of doing research about the BRCA(Breast Cancer) mutation, statistics, surveillance, procedures and doctors. Talk to as many people as you can who have gone through or are going through what you are. Attending a “show and tell” at FORCE (Facing our Risk Cancer Empowered) allowed me to see results of what a mastectomy and reconstruction actually looks like. There are a number of types of reconstruction offered today. I have chosen to have the one-step procedure.
My decision was based on a number of things.
First, I have seen many people in my life suffer from breast cancer. They received radiation and chemotherapy. For many, it was brutal. My aunt had a radical mastectomy after she was diagnosed. From seeing these experiences firsthand, a fear grew inside of me that it could be me but also a feeling that I was lucky. I was lucky enough to know that I was at risk and I could do something about it. I have a 50 to 85% risk of developing breast cancer by age 70. Having surgery would reduce my risk by 90%. This number varies upon whether or not you have intact ovaries.
I started getting nervous when it was time for a 6 month checkup for my MRI or mammogram. At my yearly mammogram, I was called back to redo the mammogram. That made me a bit nervous. They told me that the pictures didn’t come out clear enough for the radiologist to read. I was relieved. But when I returned to the waiting room, I saw tears in my mother’s eyes and anxiety and pain all over her face. I told her everything was okay; that they were just redoing the pictures. And, everything was okay. The results showed nothing abnormal. But I then realized that I didn’t want to go through this anxiety every 6 months of “What Ifs?” What if they see something? What then?
I am not blessed to have this mutation, but lucky enough to know that I can do something to lower my risk. I want to be healthy, live a long life and decrease my odds. And what is so amazing is the advancement in the types of procedures available today. I have chosen the one-step procedure because everything is accomplished in one surgery, mastectomy and reconstruction. There is minimal scarring, which is the result of an 8cm incision under each breast. And because I am getting implants, I will be perky when I am 80!
- National nonprofit organization devoted to hereditary breast and ovarian cancer - FORCE - Facing Our
A nonprofit organization for women whose family history and genetic status puts them at high risk for ovarian cancer and/or breast cancer, and for families in which a BRCA mutation may be present.