Five things you won't learn from the "Decoding Annie Parker" movie


Carrie Corey

Even the most well-adjusted cancer patient can't help but ask, "Why me?" While there are a number of lifestyle choices that can increase one's risk of cancer, there's no real explanation why an 8-year-old has to struggle with leukemia when a 90-year-old man enjoys a long life of smoking cigars and drinking whiskey.

I didn't develop breast cancer because of the cigarettes I smoked in college. I didn't get it because of all the beer and bacon cheeseburgers I consumed in my 20s. I get to blame my cancer on something that is beyond anyone's control: I tested positive for the BRCA 2 genetic mutation. As a result, I was more likely to get cancer in my lifetime than to NOT get cancer. Some people don't want to know if they are genetically prone to getting cancer because they think it will cast a black cloud on their future. But burying your head in the sand will not make that lump go away - it will only make you less prepared to fight when cancer rears its ugly head.

Had I known that I was such a high risk for breast cancer, I could have taken measures to prevent it.

No one wants to go under the knife voluntarily, but having a bilateral mastectomy before receiving my diagnosis would have significantly reduced my chances of getting breast cancer. Instead, I will be in treatment until they find a cure. Because I didn't have a strong family history of breast cancer, I had no reason to consider getting tested for BRCA. My dad's sister had successfully completed treatment for breast cancer, but I didn't know of any other cases of breast cancer in the family until after I tested positive for the mutation.

Last week I went with CURE Editor-at-Large Kathy LaTour to see Decoding Annie Parker. While I enjoyed the film and hope it will generate awareness about BRCA genetic mutations, I would like to share a few facts with you that you will not learn from watching the movie. (DISCLAIMER: I am not a scientist, doctor or geneticist. I am a 33-year-old metastatic breast cancer survivor with a BRCA 2 genetic mutation who has spent the last four years navigating the cancer world as a patient.)1.) Having a BRCA mutation gives a woman at least a 60 percent chance of getting breast cancer in her lifetime. It can also increase a man or woman's chance of developing several other kinds of cancer, including skin, pancreatic, ovarian, testicular, prostate, stomach and more. 2.) BRCA mutations can affect each generation earlier than the one before it. Learning you have a mutation doesn't foreshadow an event that might happen in your 50s or 60s. My aunt had breast cancer in her 40s, but I was diagnosed at 29. (Remember, the recommended age to begin mammograms is 40.) 3.) If you know your risk, you can get screened early and often, and there are preventive measures you can take. We all know that early detection is key to the best prognosis. And ladies, it would have been much more fun to get the free boob job without also getting the cancer diagnosis and the gallons of chemo - TRUST ME! 4.) Your family health history includes both parents. In terms of breast cancer, many doctors only ask about your mom's family history, but think back to middle school science: you get equal genes from mom and dad. I inherited my BRCA mutation from my dad's side of the family.5.) Your BRCA status cannot affect your health insurance coverage.

The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) protects Americans against discrimination based on their genetic information when it comes to health insurance and employment. If you have numerous relatives with breast cancer or other related cancers, talk to a genetic counselor about getting tested for hereditary genetic mutations like BRCA 1 and BRCA 2. (And don't buy one of those DIY take home tests!)

Think of testing as a powerful tool that can help in your family's individual fight against cancer. You could be saving the life of your daughter, your niece, or your granddaughter, as well as your own.Carrie Corey is a wife, mom and metastatic breast cancer survivor. She will be reporting in frequently on her journey.

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