When Angelina Jolie decided to undergo a double mastectomy after finding out she had a predisposition to breast cancer, the floodgates opened up. She inadvertently inspired countless articles, opinions, blog posts and conversations about the subject of preventative genetic testing and what one should do if they got similar news.
But what about the patient who just “doesn’t want to know” and doesn’t want to get their results? How do people with this mindset decide if they should test or not?
As a breast cancer specialist, I’ve worked with a few women who have told me that if they do have a mutated BRCA gene (that gives them a predisposition for breast cancer) that they don’t want to know about it. They would rather continue on without this invaluable information. Though I don’t necessarily agree with it, the fact of the matter is that is a patient’s choice.
Personally, I feel that knowledge is power. Knowing that you have a predisposition to any form of cancer means that you can deal with it on your own terms, before it potentially becomes deadly. Why wait for it to hit you like a freight train, leaving you to deal with it on its terms when you can deal with it before it becomes a problem?
Testing for predisposition isn’t just for you, it can also help your family members. Even if you don’t want to know the status, the results may impact those close to you as a particular mutation could have other diseases and cancers associated with it.
Also – and most importantly – the results of the BRCA gene test might come out negative. Wouldn’t that be a relief to yourself and those who are close to you? You would be released from the unnecessary anxiety that you might be feeling about this subject and can move forward in your life knowing what you know.
Last thing I’ll say about this is a positive test is just a positive test: it merely confirms what you have been worried about, and it really shouldn’t change your mindset if you have been concerned about a predisposition already. In fact, now you are a step ahead of the game, empowered and ready to move forward to the next stage of healthy living!
What do you think? Are there advantages to NOT knowing?