Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes
This archived news story is available only for your personal, non-commercial use. Information in the story may be outdated or superseded by additional information. Reading or replaying the story in its archived form does not constitute a republication of the story.
For Sarah Morse, this may be the longest, loneliest walk she has ever taken. Sarah is about to find out if she is a carrier of the so-called breast cancer gene.
She has good reason to be concerned. Her mother, grandmother, and great aunt all got breast cancer in their 40s. Sarah herself was diagnosed with breast cancer when she was 59.
Sara Morse/Gene Testing Patient: "I HAD A MASTECTOMY, A DOUBLE HEADER, A BILATERAL MASTECTOMY."
Now she wants to know if she carries the gene, not for herself, but for the other women in her family.
Sara Morse: "I DECIDED BECAUSE I HAVE DAUGHTERS AND MY BROTHER HAS FIVE DAUGHTERS, AND I FELT IT WAS TIME FOR THEM TO KNOW."
So she has come to the U-C-S-F comprehensive cancer center to learn from genetic counselor Julie Mak if her test is positive.
Like everyone who is tested, Sarah has already been through extensive counseling so she knows what the risks and benefits are.
Julie Mak/UCSF Genetic Counselor: "A POSITIVE RESULT MAKES A HUGE IMPACT ON SOMEONE IN TERMS OF THEIR FEARS ABOUT WHAT THEIR RISKS ARE OF GETTING CANCER, AND IT'S VERY IMPORTANT FOR THEM TO HAVE AN UNDERSTANDING BEFOREHAND WHAT THEIR OPTIONS ARE."
While only around five percent of all breast cancers are caused by genetic mutations, those people carrying the gene have an 85-percent risk of getting not just breast, but also ovarian cancer.
Their options range from regular screening to catch a problem early, to surgery ... removing the problem before cancer is detected.
The test itself is simple, just drawing some blood. but analysing it takes months.
For Sarah, those months of waiting have finally come to an end.
Julie Mak; "I DID GET YOUR RESULTS A SHORT TIME AGO, AND WHAT THEY SHOWED WAS THAT THEY DID NOT FIND A MUTATION."
Sara Morse: "THEY DIDN'T? THEY DIDN'T? OH MY GOD!"
While the news is good, it does not mean Sarah and her family are off the hook.
Because of the high incidence of breast cancer in the family, Sarah's daughters and nieces need to begin screening ten years earlier than normal ... in their mid-30s.
Sara Morse: "I THINK WHEN SHE SAID I WASN'T CARRYING THE GENE, EVERY EMOTION LET LOOSE, IT'S INDESCRIBABLE, YOU ARE NOT EXACTLY CARRYING THE DEATH SENTENCE AND YOU ARE NOT OFF THE HOOK, BUT FOR RIGHT NOW I DON'T HAVE TO WORRY THAT THIS MIGHT HIT MY DAUGHTERS AND NIECES."
For the past five years, Sarah has often left the doctor's office in tears. Today, it's a very different feeling.