Dear Annie: I’m a high school student in a small town, and I’m really scared for my health. My maternal grandmother died of breast cancer, and she left behind three daughters, two of whom have daughters of their own. There’s a high chance that my mother, aunts, cousin or I could have breast cancer, as well.
I’m scared to the bone of this disease, and I’m always nervous that my self-exams aren’t terribly accurate. I’ve talked to my mom about getting a professional exam or even a mammogram (though, to be honest, I’d be so much more comfortable with a mastectomy altogether), but I always feel like she avoids the subject. Is there any way I can get an exam without my mother knowing? If not, how can I convince her to get one with me? – Worried in Wyoming
Dear Worried: While having a close relative who has had breast cancer is a risk factor over one’s lifetime, it doesn’t necessarily mean that anyone else in your family will get it. A small percentage of the population carries the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene, and if Grandma had this, your mother should speak to her doctor about genetic testing. Otherwise, your risk is no greater than any other girl your age.
But we do agree that an exam might put your mind at ease. Ask your mother to make an appointment for you with a gynecologist. If she refuses, you can talk to your pediatrician about this at your next appointment, or contact Planned Parenthood (plannedparenthood.org) for information.