Amy Dickinson is a general advice columnist.
DEAR AMY: I am a 19-year-old girl at high risk for breast cancer; it killed my paternal grandmother at age 35, and my maternal aunt was diagnosed at age 56. I want to have my genes screened so I can receive genetic counseling and decide whether a pre-emptive mastectomy would be a wise choice.
Shockingly, my mother objects to me having my genes tested. She says I may be better off not knowing, and that insurance wouldn't cover it. I say my life is worth more than the cost of a screening and surgery. I believe there is another reason my mother is objecting: She is afraid that if I learn I have a cancer gene, I will never have children. I don't want to accuse my mother of putting the possibility of grandchildren ahead of her own child's life, but I am convinced this is coloring her opinion. Amy, I intend to have my genes screened as soon as I am self-supporting, and I want my mother to do the same. I will also need her support if I am faced with the decision of whether to have a mastectomy. What can I do to convince her of the value of prevention?--Pro-Prevention
DEAR PRO: You might be able to gather more information if your aunt who has cancer will agree to have her genes tested (if she is still living). If she tests positive for the BRCA1 or BRCA2 cancer genes, this would provide stronger evidence that you should then be tested.
The National Cancer Institute publishes detailed information on genetic testing on its website: cancer.gov. You might be able to interest your mother in becoming more informed about her own health by asking her to research this with you.
Your theory that your mother denies you this testing and counseling because she is afraid you will not have children seems like a reach. But reassure her about this and don't push her too hard about testing for herself. Just as you should be in charge of your own body and health, she must be in charge of hers.