Ask Amy: Woman at risk of cancer wants gene testing

December 3, 2013 

Dear Amy: I am a 19-year-old girl at high risk for breast cancer; it killed my paternal grandmother at age 35, and my maternal aunt was diagnosed at age 56. I want to have my genes screened so I can receive genetic counseling and decide whether a pre-emptive mastectomy would be a wise choice.

Shockingly, my mother objects to me having my genes tested. She says I may be better off not knowing, and that insurance wouldn't cover it. I say my life is worth more than the cost of a screening and surgery.

I believe there is another reason my mother is objecting: She is afraid that if I learn I have a cancer gene, I will never have children.

Amy, I intend to have my genes screened as soon as I am self-supporting, and I want my mother to do the same. What can I do to convince her of the value of prevention?

— Pro-prevention

Dear Pro: You might be able to gather more information if your aunt who has cancer will agree to have her genes tested (if she is still living). If she tests positive for the BRCA1 or BRCA2 cancer genes, this would provide stronger evidence that you should then be tested.

The National Cancer Institute publishes detailed information on genetic testing on its website:

Your theory that your mother denies you this testing and counseling because she is afraid you will not have children seems like a reach. But reassure her about this and don't push her too hard about testing for herself.

Dear Amy: I work in a large company, and there are 15 people in my department.

Whenever people in the department get married or have a baby, we throw a shower in their honor.

One of the guys in my department is gay. He is marrying his partner soon. He has always participated in these wedding and baby showers.

I just assumed that we would have a shower for him because now it's his turn to celebrate a significant life event, but some people have indicated that they would feel funny having a shower for a same-sex couple.

I don't see it.

What do you think?

— Why not from Canada

Dear Why Not: I'm with you. And your colleague. And anyone who wishes to celebrate and share an important life event with conference-room cake. You should ask your colleague if he would enjoy a wedding shower and, if so, pull this together.


You can contact Amy Dickinson via email at, follow her on Twitter @askingamy or "like" her on Facebook.

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