Thursday, February 21, 2008

To Disclose or not to Disclose... "Hey Boss, I might get cancer."

I'm ill, but who needs to know?

That's the title of an article in today's New York Times. It's about people who have been diagnosed with chronic illnesses deciding whether to disclose that information to their workplaces or not. I know it's not directly related because being BRCA positive isn't a chronic disease, but I think some of us face the same dilemma.

I remember when I found out I was positive (that was last summer so about 8 months ago) and just afterwards I accepted a job. I was worried about signing up for health insurance from my employer. Would they ask me if I had any genetic mutations? If they did would I have to disclose? Would they deny me insurance? Would I have to pay an exorbitant price (more exorbitant than normal, for that matter)?

My dad and I tried to do some research. We looked online for legislation, and apparently Pennsylvania was one of few states not to have any legislation about genetic issues and health insurance. My dad contaced the head of FORCE (which I talk about below) but I don't think he ever got a straight answer. With something so new as genetic testing, and someone so young as me who just graduated college and had to apply for new health insurance, no one really seemed to know what to do.

My job didn't ask, luckily, so it was a non-issue. But still, I wonder... And the question is unanswered. How does a BRCA mutation affect your health insurance? Your relationship to your workplace? Is it something you should disclose, or keep mum, and what are the advantages/disadvantages of either situation?


I won't post the article here because it's a little too long. But if you want to read it, I think you can link to it here:

Thank goodness I don't have multiple sclerosis or fibromyalgia. But sometimes I wonder also... is this positive test any better?

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

New research links nighttime illumination with breast cancer rates

Here's an article from today's USAToday. Viable? Maybe not. Interesting? Yes.

And geez... doesn't it just seem like everything can give you cancer these days? Don't stand in front of the microwave. Don't excessively use your cell phone. Don't eat too much Sweet 'n Low. And now - stay away from places with too much artifical light?

Maybe cancer is just a natural progression in our less-than-perfect bodies?

New research links nighttime illumination with breast cancer rates

When Israeli scientists matched satellite images with cancer registries, The Washington Post says they discovered that the breast cancer rate was much higher among women who lived in the brightest spots on the map.

They didn't find a similar correlation with other types of cancer, the Post says.

"The mechanism of such a link, if real, remains mysterious, but many scientists suspect that melatonin is key," the paper says. "Secreted by the pineal gland in the brain, the hormone helps prevent tumor formation. The body produces melatonin primarily at night, and levels drop precipitously in the presence of light, especially light in the blue part of the spectrum produced in quantity by computer screens and fluorescent bulbs."

Experts say that includes the energy-saving compact-fluorescent bulbs that have become so popular in recent years.

Last year, the World Health Organization announced that it considered the graveyard shift a "probable carcinogen" because of mounting research that suggests a link between exposure to light at night and the development of cancer.

Here's an overview of recent studies on light and cancer. The Post says this latest research is described in Chronobiology International.

Friday, February 1, 2008

FORCE - Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered

Another thing I'd like to do with this blog is research and provide resources for BRCA positive or other high-risk women.

FORCE (Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered) is a non-profit that caters directly to people with a high risk of developing breast cancer - whether it be genetic or hereditary. Here's their site:

They have branches all over the country, including one in my stomping ground, Philly. The site has message boards and links to good information, and they publish a newsletter. That's just a tiny summary but there's much more so it's worth checking out. I heard about it through my genetic counselor (who I'll refer to on here as my GC, at least from now on).

In May FORCE is hosting it's third national conference called Joining FORCES, to bring together professionals and individuals affected by breast or ovarian cancer risk. My stepmom is a nurse and my dad, being the one who signed me up for BRCA testing in the first place, suggested we go together.

So I'll be in Tampa for the conference, and you can bet your bottom dollar i'll be reporting it all on here. That's not for another few months... so in the meantime... you'll just have to listen to me prattle about other things.