Disclosure :: As you all know, October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. This week, we are excited to bring you our Moms Supporting Breast Cancer Awareness series sponsored by Touro Infirmary. We will have personal stories from local breast cancer survivors, as well as information from local medical providers about early screening and detection of breast cancer.
Weighing the Options
Women with a mother, sister or daughter diagnosed with breast cancer have nearly twice the risk of developing the disease. When breast cancer strikes in families, particularly at a younger age, doctors often suspect genes are to blame.
Genes Gone Wrong
Between five and 10 percent of breast cancers are caused by genetic problems. The BRCA1 AND BRCA2 genes are most commonly responsible for hereditary breast cancer. Normally, these genes help keep cells from growing out of control. Defective genes fail at that task.
Women in the general population face a 12 percent risk for breast cancer over their lifetime. But women with defective copies of the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes have a 50 to 80 percent chance of developing breast cancer, often before age 50. These women also face a higher risk of ovarian cancer.
Consider Genetic Counseling
Breast cancer related to genes is most common in families who have multiple members with the disease. But not every woman with a family history of inherited breast cancer carries the defective gene.
Whether one should undergo genetic testing for breast cancer is a very complicated question and should not be answered without guidance from a genetics counselor or a physician.
A blood test can check for mutations in BRCA1 or BRCA2 and help you make decisions about steps to reduce cancer risk. Before getting tested, talk with your doctor about genetic counseling. Such counseling can help you understand whether testing is appropriate, what the benefits and risks are, and what genetic testing can and can’t tell you.
Think about testing if you have:
- Breast or ovarian cancer and a family member with the disease
- A blood relative with the harmful mutation
- Family history of breast or ovarian cancer in multiple relatives
The cost for testing ranges from several hundred to several thousand dollars, so be sure to speak with your insurance provider.
About Dr. Zakris