Based on her family history, Beverley Docherty
believed it was only a matter of time before she
developed breast cancer.
breast cancer in her early 50s, and my aunt on my
mother’s side got breast cancer at 33. My cousin,
my aunt’s daughter, found a lump last year and had
to have a double mastectomy, her ovaries removed,
Docherty, also 31, decided to confront her
fate after receiving genetic counselling at Alberta
Children’s Hospital in Calgary. In April 2010, she
other women in my family, I suspected I could be
would develop breast cancer.
Since two telltale genes were identified in the
mid-1990s, individuals with a family history of breast
cancer, which one in 5,000 Canadian women will
develop, can find out if they were born with one of
the defective genes that cause the disease.
The decision to be tested for a genetic disorder,
such as hereditary cancer or Huntington’s disease,
is not to be taken lightly, says Deepti Babu, a
Genetic testing can
reveal if you have one of
the 3,000 genes linked
to diseases. But the
bigger question is would
you want to know?
BY DAWNA FREEMAN
more than a blood draw. There are implications that
can be far-reaching, and these can have a ripple
While the decision to test is yours alone, the
Regional Hospital Centre as a clinical ethicist for
individual were found to be a carrier, that would tell
you that at least one of the parents was also either a
carrier or actually had the condition, and would have
In guiding families and health-care teams
on issues surrounding medical interventions,
including genetic testing, individuals, families and
health-care providers are faced with considering
the benefits of telling someone their risk for a
certain disease they may never get or be able to do
anything to prevent.
In fact, a positive genetic test for a disease doesn’t
definitively mean you’ll get it. It means you are at
a higher risk than the average person. Likewise,
this kind of test can’t predict when you could get a
disease or how severely it may affect you.
to a disease can significantly alter your health.
Seavilleklein says a new disease category, called
OR NOT TO TEST