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Predicting Cancer

Sep 30, 2008

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Sarah Handel

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Faced with a family history of ovarian cancer and breast cancer, Joanna Rudnick got tested for a mutation in the BRCA genes, the so-called breast cancer genes. She tested positive, a diagnosis indicative of an incredibly increased risk of developing breast cancer (85-90% chance over her lifetime) and ovarian cancer (50-60% lifetime chance). She was only 27 when she got this result, and it changed her life. She decided to make a documentary about women like her, called In the Family.

Right now, the best chance for women with the mutation to avoid breast and ovarian cancers is to have their breasts and ovaries removed, and soon, as the risk increases with age. It's an almost unimaginable decision — radical mastectomy of currently healthy breasts, and oophorectomy, forever prohibiting the woman from becoming pregnant — but when? If you're not ready to have kids yet, do you push the surgeries back and hope for the right time to get pregnant, and soon? If you're ready for kids, do you have them... And risk passing on the mutation? And if you already have kids, and you're through, how will the loss of such critical elements of womanhood affect your relationships? Staggering. If you've been through the testing, like the women in her film, tell us your story. Whether you carry the mutation or not, what was it like to get tested, and how are you dealing with your results?

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