Knowing you carry a cancer gene

The oncologist called me alone to the exam room, and I told her the story I had revealed to more doctors than friends: I carry the BRCA1 mutation, which gives you a 98 percent chance of developing cancer.

When my family found out that I might have inherited the mutation from my mother, we took it as a given that I would get tested. Scientists, atheists and lawyers, we are compulsively rational. Yet when I learned I carried the mutation, I felt the cruel weight of a paradox: you can never know whether you want to know until you already do.

At Stanford, I study artificial intelligence, in which math is used to resolve these sorts of dilemmas. My teachers claim that gaining information never hurts. It can be proved mathematically that a robot with more information never makes worse decisions But we are not robots. Our eyes don’t filigree the world with coordinates and probabilities, and they can be blinded by tears.

View the original article here: Knowing You Carry a Cancer Gene

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