"How far would you go to save your life?" That's the question faced by women who find they're carriers of the BRCA genetic mutations, which dramatically increase their risk of breast and ovarian cancer. It's also the question posed by performer and composer Eva Moon.
Moon asks the question straight-out on the website about her new musical comedy "The Mutant Diaries: Unzipping My Genes." She answered that question for herself by undergoing prophylactic surgeries to remove her breasts and ovaries.
"In the process, I discovered my mutant superpower," Moon says on her website. "I got to change the future."
Moon's decision – and her show – call attention to a dilemma increasingly faced by women as genetic testing becomes more widespread. The individual choices are complex.
With breast cancer, mastectomy is indeed the most effective way to reduce risk among BRCA carriers, but it’s not the only way. Women can choose to undergo additional screening, which obviously won't prevent cancer but could catch it early. Among their screening options is magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, in addition to mammograms – alternating between the two every six months.
With ovarian cancer, the options are even less clear. Laura Kruper, M.D., director of the Rita Cooper Finkel and J. William Finkel Women’s Health Center at City of Hope, often encourages patients with a BRCA mutation and who have completed childbearing to consider having their ovaries removed. After all, there is no screening tool for ovarian cancer, and removal of the ovaries also lowers the risk of breast cancer.
Moon's decision was made while her own mother was facing BRCA1-related breast cancer. Now it's led to a one-woman show filled with, perhaps surprisingly to some, songs. Humor, even.
As described on the website: "The Mutant Diaries shares the silliness as well as the struggle of dealing with a life-changing personal challenge. The show delivers a positive, uplifting message about taking charge of life and health – and does it with laughter instead of lectures, music instead of moaning."
For Moon, the show especially resonates here in Southern California.
"City of Hope has a special place of honor in my heart," she said. "My grandmother was BRCA1+ and when she was dying of ovarian cancer, City of Hope took such kind, compassionate care of her, it made a huge difference and a huge impression on our whole family. For years afterward, my mother, who also eventually died of BRCA-related cancer, worked as a City of Hope volunteer. I remember going to meetings with her as a child."
She continued: "Now it's my turn, as the BRCA1+ daughter, to try to give something back to a community that has been so supportive."
In simply calling attention to the choices that women must make – and empowering them in the process, Moon has achieved her goal.
To learn more about "The Mutant Diaries," which will be in L.A. for one day only, Oct. 30, visit mutantdiaries.com.
To learn more about breast and ovarian cancer, visit our Women's Cancers page.
And to help City of Hope fight Women's Cancers, join our Walk for Hope on Nov. 3. The walk, held on the City of Hope campus in Duarte, Calif., is a uniquely moving experience. Not only does it raise funds for research into women's cancers, but it's held where scientists conduct the research and where clinicians use it to save patients. Register at walk4hope.org – and then tell us why you walk.