A while back I blogged about the possibility that I may have a defect in my MLH1 gene that increases my chances of getting bowel cancer. You can read more info here: Keeping It In The Family. The other month I went for a blood test and a few days ago I got my results.
Now, I’m not going to post my results here because there is one close family member who doesn’t want to know plus you’re probably not that interested anyway! But in the days before getting my results it got me thinking…
What if I DO have the gene defect…? Well, for one thing it would mean I would have an 80% chance of getting bowel cancer between age 40 and 60. It would also mean I could be put onto a screening program where every year or two years I would have a camera shoved up my back-passage to look for any signs of tumours. So while the risk of cancer would be dramatically increased, the risk of coming to any harm from it would be equally reduced owing to the screening process that I would be entitled to.
What if I DON’T have the gene defect…? Life would basically continue as normal. I would not have an increased risk of bowel cancer. I would be just like every other person, taking the same day-to-day risks and having the same risk of getting bowel cancer as everyone else. I could still get bowel cancer though, but it may not be known about until it’s too late as I wouldn’t be on a screening programme.
So,would it be better to have the gene defect? While the likelihood of getting bowel cancer is increased, there is a much better likely outcome if it did occur as it would be spotted early on. Or is it better to not have it to avoid having to worry about ‘when’ I may get bowel cancer?
Regardless of the outcome there is nothing I can do to change my genes, I guess the real issue will be how I will handle the knowledge I now have and how it may or may not affect myself and the people around me… If my brothers get a different result to me will there be any form of ‘jealousy’ between us? Would *I* be jealous of those with different results? Thinking of it this way makes me realise perhaps just why the ‘close family member’ may not want to know the results!