Is DNA testing always right? Apparently not, as tragically illustrated by Maureen Boesen's story in PEOPLE.
Boesen, now in her early 30's, and her two sisters were part of a study, beginning when they were just young children, because their grandmother died of ovarian cancer at 44 and their mother was diagnosed with breast cancer at 32. So the girls were tested to see if they had the BRCA gene mutation, which would put them at higher risk for both cancers.
Boesen and her sister, Bridget, were told they carry the gene, while their other sister, Kathryn, did not. So Boesen did what her doctors advised her to do: have a preventative double mastectomy in her early twenties. It was very sad for Boesen when she was unable to breastfeed the three children she had just years later. But she thought she was doing the right thing.
“It was just devastating because I knew what breast cancer and ovarian cancer can do to a family. You know, my first question out of my mouth was, is there any chance this could be wrong? And the researcher said no,” Boesen shared.
The doctors also suggested she have a complete hysterectomy by 35, once she was done having children. So Boesen proceeded with that advice. Luckily, her insurance wanted her to test again as part of their protocol. That's when Boesen got the shocking news that she did not carry the BRCA gene.
“I was at work, and the first thing [the doctor] said was, we need to talk. And my heart just sank. And she said, ‘You’re negative!’ and I just started bawling,” Boesen said. “I was angry. I was regretful. I was happy. I was sad. I so desperately wanted to feel relief, ‘Oh, thank God, this is the best day of my life,’ but it wasn’t,” she said. It was just devastating.”
“I wish what I had been told was, if you don’t trust it, get another test. But that’s not what I was told, and my life could have been so different,” she said, crying. “My life has been great, I’m incredibly fortunate, I’m blessed. But it just could have been different.”
The university that originally gave her the wrong results is now in the process of retesting her DNA. She anticipates it will be negative, but “I don’t even know” what she would do, Boesen said.
Boesen is one among many women (like Angelina Jolie) who have preventatively removed their breasts and/or ovaries because of DNA testing or a family history of female cancers. But what if DNA testing is not always right, as in Boesen's case? And what if family history is not indicative of necessarily getting the same cancer?
These are some major questions for women to ask as they consider what the medical industry is recommending. What do you think of Boesen's story? Share your thoughts in the comments! Thank you.