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LOS ANGELES — TWO years ago I wrote about my choice to have a preventive double mastectomy. A simple blood test had revealed that I carried a mutation in the BRCA1 gene. It gave me an estimated 87 percent risk of breast cancer and a 50 percent risk of ovarian cancer. I lost my mother, grandmother and aunt to cancer.
I wanted other women at risk to know about the options. I promised to follow up with any information that could be useful, including about my next preventive surgery, the removal of my ovaries and fallopian tubes.
I had been planning this for some time. It is a less complex surgery than the mastectomy, but its effects are more severe. It puts a woman into forced menopause. So I was readying myself physically and emotionally, discussing options with doctors, researching alternative medicine, and mapping my hormones for estrogen or progesterone replacement. But I felt I still had months to make the date.
Then two weeks ago I got a call from my doctor with blood-test results. “Your CA-125 is normal,” he said. I breathed a sigh of relief. That test measures the amount of the protein CA-125 in the blood, and is used to monitor ovarian cancer. I have it every year because of my family history.
But that wasn’t all. He went on. “There are a number of inflammatory markers that are elevated, and taken together they could be a sign of early cancer.” I took a pause. “CA-125 has a 50 to 75 percent chance of missing ovarian cancer at early stages,” he said. He wanted me to see the surgeon immediately to check my ovaries.
I went through what I imagine thousands of other women have felt. I told myself to stay calm, to be strong, and that I had no reason to think I wouldn’t live to see my children grow up and to meet my grandchildren.
I called my husband in France, who was on a plane within hours. The beautiful thing about such moments in life is that there is so much clarity. You know what you live for and what matters. It is polarizing, and it is peaceful.
That same day I went to see the surgeon, who had treated my mother. I last saw her the day my mother passed away, and she teared up when she saw me: “You look just like her.” I broke down. But we smiled at each other and agreed we were there to deal with any problem, so “let’s get on with it.”
A few years ago OneWorld health literacy program producer, N'Zinga Shäni, sat down with Dr. Thomas Rutherford, gynecologic oncologist at Yale to have a detailed discussion and community education program about Ovarian Cancer and the role of CA-125 in diagnosing Ovarian Cancer in its early stage. You can follow this link to OneWorld's YouTube Channel to see a segment of that program. the full hour is available on DVD; orders can be placed through the OneWorld web site using PayPal.
Ovarian Cancer Education - OneWorld Progressive Institute, Health Forum with Yale Gynecologic Oncologist, Dr. Thomas Rutherford: https://youtu.be/eAZIHBaYzac
Learn more about OneWorld's Health Literacy program by visiting OneWorld at: http://www.youtube.com/user/oneworldpi/videos -