Making Informed Decisions
In the world of hereditary brain aneurysms, screening is a common topic for those who might have a higher risk due to family connections. This blog is dedicated to helping you understand who should consider screening and offering insights to guide you through this important decision. We understand that this can be a worrying topic with many questions, and the HBA Support team is here to provide support and guidance throughout.
Screening for Hereditary Brain Aneurysms: Who Should Consider It?
If you're part of a family with a history of hereditary brain aneurysms, understanding who should consider screening is a crucial first step toward informed decision-making. Here's a closer look at the factors that might lead you to consider screening:
If you have two or more first-degree relatives (such as parents, siblings, or children) who have a confirmed brain aneurysm, or who have experienced a subarachnoid haemorrhage—a condition where an aneurysm bursts and causes bleeding—current NHS advice is that you should consider screening.
Understanding the Risks
Studies reveal that individuals with a strong family history of hereditary brain aneurysms face a greater chance of developing an unruptured aneurysm compared to the general population. However, it’s important to remember that personal risk can differ greatly, and decisions about screening are deeply personal. For some, screening can even raise more worries. Rest assured, your decision is yours alone, and it’s all about what feels right for you.
Navigating the Screening Process
If you find yourself falling into the category of those who should consider screening, and you feel that you’d like to be screened, here's a glimpse into the process:
- Consultation: Start by consulting your GP, sharing your family's medical history, and discussing your concerns. They can provide initial guidance and potentially refer you to specialists.
- Specialist Consultation: You'll meet with a neurovascular or neurosurgeon consultant to assess your personal risks and discuss the implications of screening.
- Screening: The screening itself often involves non-invasive imaging studies, such as a CT angiogram or MRI scan. These tests help experts examine your brain's blood vessels for potential aneurysms.
- Making Decisions: Armed with screening results and guided by expert advice, you'll be able to make a decision that aligns with your well-being and comfort.
- Empowerment and Next Steps: Whether your screening reveals an aneurysm or not, the journey is about making informed choices that prioritise your health. Your medical team will provide insights and support, helping you determine the best way forward.
Support Along the Way
The decision to undergo screening can be accompanied by worries and questions. That's why support is paramount. The Brain & Spine Foundation's Helpline nurses (reachable at 0808 808 1000) are there to provide compassionate assistance. They can help address your concerns, explain the screening process, and provide a listening ear during this crucial time.
You can also ask your GP or your specialist to refer you to a genetic counsellor. They can take down your family history to understand your risks and your background, and help you talk through your choices and the best decision for you.
With the help of genetic counsellors working in the UK today, we also have developed some guides for you and your family that will help you make an informed decision. Take a look here: LINK
Navigating the landscape of hereditary brain aneurysms is a journey that begins with understanding your risk factors and the importance of screening. If you're part of a family with a history of hereditary brain aneurysms, the decision to undergo screening can be pivotal. Remember, you're not alone on this journey—knowledgeable professionals and empathetic individuals are here to support you every step of the way.