Tackling the BRCA Gene on The Bold Type
Posted on September 5, 2017, 10:30 AM
By Actress Katie Stevens
This blog contains some spoilers for the sixth episode of The Bold Type Season One, entitled The Breast Issue.
One in two men, and one in three women, will face cancer in their lifetimes. Whether you know someone who has dealt with cancer, or you have to face it yourself, it will likely affect your life in some way. Cancer has affected me personally in many ways. So, when I first learned that my character Jane, on The Bold Type, lost her mother to breast cancer and tested positive for the potentially harmful BRCA gene mutation, I wanted to do everything I could to represent her experience in a very real way.
One of the things I love most about my job as an actress — and working on a show like The Bold Type — is that it gives me the unique opportunity to raise awareness about important issues, like women’s health, breast cancer and BRCA gene testing. In playing a character like Jane, I also got the chance to show the fears and emotions that someone who has lost a loved one to cancer may have when it comes to their personal health risks. It is a story line that I am proud to be part of and hope that it will help people who are going through a similar experience.
When I first read the script for “The Breast Issue,” I had heard of BRCA gene testing but didn’t know too much about it or what it means when these gene mutations are inherited. According to the American Cancer Society, women who have a mother, sister, or daughter with a history of breast cancer are about twice as likely to develop breast cancer as women who do not have this family history. An estimated 55 to 66 percent of women who inherit a harmful BRCA1 mutation, and 45 percent of women who inherit a harmful BRCA2 mutation, will develop breast cancer by age 70, compared to the 7 percent chance of breast cancer in the general population. Additionally, 39 percent of women who inherit the BRCA1 mutation and 11 to 17 percent of women who inherit a harmful BRCA2 mutation will develop ovarian cancer by age 70. These gene mutations may also be associated with an increased risk of several other types of cancer.
My boyfriend, Paul, and his late mother, Jill, were a huge source of inspiration for me in this episode, and I dedicated my performance to them. Paul lost his mother to breast cancer at a young age and has a deeply personal understanding of what it’s like to lose a parent to this horrible disease. He was incredibly supportive and answered any questions I had about his mom, their relationship and her battle against breast cancer. In talking to Paul and his family, I also learned that men can inherit BRCA mutations and it puts them at an increased risk for breast, prostate and other cancers.
While working on this episode, I realized the importance of a strong support system. I loved how much comfort and help Jane received from the people in her life. When someone loses a loved one or faces a health crisis, I believe that having empathy for that person and their unique situation is key. Being able to say, I’m here for you, and I can’t imagine what you’re going through, can mean the world to someone. Everyone handles things like cancer differently, and it’s enough to just be there for someone.
Cancer does not discriminate. It has taken the lives of so many people I love, including my best friend, Gavi, my grandmother, my grandfather, and the love of my life’s mother, who I will never get the opportunity to meet. To say that I hope cancer ends one day is an understatement. Cancer needs to end as soon as possible so lives continue to be saved. I am so proud to be on a network like Freeform that continues to work with organizations, like Stand Up To Cancer, to promote cancer awareness, research, and prevention. Seeing comments from the fans and hearing how they connect to each episode and the characters on our show means the world to me. If just one person is comforted by Jane’s story, learns more about their family history, or talks to their doctor about whether or not they could be a candidate for BRCA gene testing, then we’ve done our job.
To learn more about BRCA mutations and the cancer risks associated with them click here. To learn what cancer screenings might be right for you, visit SU2C’s campaign with its collaborator Rally Healthcare at www.getscreenednow.org.
To continue following Jane’s journey on The Bold Type, click here.
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