Jennifer was 39 and perfectly healthy, but her grandmother had died young from breast cancer, so she decided to be tested for mutations in two genes known to increase risk for the disease.
When a genetic counselor offered additional tests for 20 other genes linked to various cancers, Jennifer said yes. The more information, the better, she thought.
The results, she said, were “surreal.” She did not have mutations in the breast cancer genes, but did have one linked to a high risk of stomach cancer. In people with a family history of the disease, that mutation is considered so risky that patients who are not even sick are often advised to have their stomachs removed. But no one knows what the finding might mean in someone like Jennifer, whose family has not had the disease.
It was a troubling result that her doctors have no idea how to interpret.