Yesterday’s appointment with the Genetic Counselor went pretty well. She previously got what I knew of my family health history over the phone, and that ended up having a bearing on what she ultimately told me.
We had to meet in the Women’s Clinic of the VA Hospital because the genetic counselors don’t actually have offices anywhere in the hospital itself. Though genetic testing services have been offered for about three years to VA health care recipients, their home offices are actually elsewhere in the city. And, Salt Lake City, Utah, is the only place where the genetic counselors actually see the patients they’re assisting. Every other VA health care center in the us offers the genetic counseling, but only by phone.
Makes me happier than ever I ended up moving here instead of Denver, where I originally wanted to be.
I’m not sure how to spell the genetic counselor’s name. It’s either Ann or Anne. I’ll go with Ann for the post and correct myself if I learn differently later.
She took me back to one of the clinic’s exam rooms, and we sat down. We went over my family history again, and I was able to fill in a few more spots about my mother’s side of the family, but could only repeat that my father died of heart problems in his 40’s and smoked and drank. Ann explained that the total blank of history from my father’s side of the family inclined her to suggest I have the genetic test for the breast cancer gene done. She said, combined with my youth—most women get it in their later years—it made getting the test a good idea. It would give me either peace of mind, or enable me to determine a course of action I could take to prevent further occurrences of breast cancer.
In the course of our discussion, Ann told me the test could have three possible outcomes. Most likely would be, No, I don’t have the gene. Slightly less likely would be, Yes, I do have the gene. Third, and least likely of all—at five or less per cent—was I have a mutation on another gene which they’re not sure indicates breast cancer, but it’s cause for concern anyway.
To explain: The two breast cancer genes they know of are brca1 and brca2. There are specific places on these genes which sometimes mutate, providing the possibility for breast cancer and ovarian cancer. There are a few other genes, which she didn’t name, which may cause breast cancer, but they’re still uncertain, so while they do look at these genes in genetic tests for breast cancer, they can’t provide a definitive answer on whether or not a woman will get cancer.
As I said, Ann told me the most likely response would be No, I don’t have the gene, but she said the complete lack of health care knowledge about my father’s side of the family made it a very good idea to get the test.
I opted to take the test. My next appointment, with Oncology, is on the 7th of November, and before I see the Oncologists, I have to have blood drawn and an electrocardiogram done. Ann said she’d put the order for blood to be drawn for the genetic test to be drawn with the other order, and that I’m to expect the results in two to four weeks from the test.
I’m a little scared.