Speak up about cancer: The importance of asking questions about your family’s medical history
Are you aware of your family’s medical history? Experts say it’s important to ask questions about the possible diseases that run in your family.
Angie Martin’s family talked about everything growing up, but one subject they didn’t touch.
“We didn’t talk about illness in the family a lot. We didn’t discuss family medical history a lot,” she said.
Despite her grandmother’s fight with cancer, Martin didn’t ask questions.
“She was a survivor and my grandmother was there as I was growing up so I didn’t ask a lot of questions,” Martin explained.
But when a doctor noticed a pattern of cancer in the family, her grandmother got tested for the BRCA gene mutation. It came back positive for her father and his siblings and uncles, meaning they’re genetically more likely to develop breast, ovarian and pancreatic cancer.
So, at the age of 37, Martin had her own test.
“My sister and I got tested and we both came back positive,” she said. “I was kind of angry a little bit… The fact that we didn’t talk about illness in my family made me ignorant to what – I feel like I could have put the pieces together on earlier.”
After a mammogram, she found out she had breast cancer. But this time, she spoke up, convincing her sister to get a mammogram as well.
“My sister is able to start monitoring herself and hopefully never have cancer,” Martin said.
Martin has had a double mastectomy and her ovaries removed and now, she hasn’t stopped talking.
“Through my Instagram platform, I talk to women, other fellow warriors, all over the globe,” she said. “It has helped me commiserate and keep my sanity.”
She openly shares her journey because she knows sometimes hearing the right words could save your life.
“There’s just so many things that are not talked about. And I know these subjects are hard to talk about,” Martin said.
The BRCA gene mutation not only puts people more at risk of developing breast cancer but ovarian and pancreatic cancer as well. The test is usually done through a blood draw and is typically covered by insurance.
For more information about the BRCA gene mutation, take a look at the links below:
- Susan G. Koman | BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations and cancer risk
- Mayo Clinic | BRCA gene test for breast and ovarian cancer risk
- ACOG | BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations: FAQs