A genetic counsellor is a health care professional with specialized education, training, and experience in medical genetics and counselling. Genetic counsellors work with both individuals and families that have a medical, family history, or potential risk for an inherited condition. The role of a genetic counsellor is to identify families at risk for genetic conditions, provide information and supportive counselling, coordinate and review testing options, and connect patients/families with appropriate community resources.
If you are at high risk for developing breast cancer because of family history or because you have the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation, you have several preventative treatments to consider. These options include close surveillance, chemoprevention, and prophylactic mastectomy, with or without breast reconstruction.
At the very core of my being, I radiate feminine essence. I grew to understand this through the loss of a physical trait that has been deeply rooted as a symbol of femininity and sexuality for so many centuries - my breasts. At the age of 18, I was diagnosed with the BRCA1 genetic mutation just as my mother, auntie, and sister before me. This meant that I was at high risk for contracting breast cancer.
The worst weeks of my life had finally come to an end. It had been six weeks since my lumpectomy. Six terrifying weeks, living with many unknowns, in a state of complete disillusionment. But the wait was finally over because today I would meet my medical oncologist for the first time, she would go over my pathology report, and reveal my treatment plan. Going into the appointment I felt ready to face whatever would come my way. After experiencing the darkest days of my life, I had emerged feeling strong and optimistic. I had done a lot of research and decided that the odds were in my favour, I could beat this… unless I had triple negative breast cancer (TNBC), because that was a different story. However, I wasn’t worried about that because I knew that TNBC only makes up 10-20% of breast cancers and that aside from my age, I didn’t really have any risk factors. So, there I was, full of hope, when I was hit with what I had identified as the worst-case scenario. As soon as I heard “Your cancer is triple negative”, I burst into tears. I don’t remember much of the appointment after that.
If you’re going to be told you have breast cancer, you want to be able to say, “They caught it early.” With Triple Negative Breast Cancer (TNBC) - an aggressive, difficult to treat type of breast cancer - early detection is especially important.
2020 was eventful, to say the least. It was a year where many had to shift and pivot from their everyday normal. Appointments were cancelled, surgeries were delayed and rescheduled, and patients found themselves having to access their doctors and healthcare team through a screen. Breast cancer patients had to not only worry about their risk of contracting the COVID-19 virus, but they also had to maintain their cancer care as best they could, something that was a challenge both mentally and physically.
According to Genetics Home Reference, “Genetic testing is a type of medical test that identifies changes in chromosomes, genes, or proteins. The results of a genetic test can confirm or rule out a suspected genetic condition or help determine a person’s chance of developing or passing on a genetic disorder.”
When I was suddenly diagnosed with breast cancer earlier this year, I really did go into shock the first few weeks. I think it's wrong to say that the diagnosis is the start of your journey. It is by no way a journey. It's a bad trip as far as I'm concerned.