Finding out that someone in your family has breast cancer not only affects you emotionally, but it also makes you wonder what your chances of getting breast cancer are too. A breast cancer diagnosis has a big impact on an entire family because blood relatives share genes. Only 5-10 percent of breast cancer is due to shared genes. Still,chances are you’ve heard that abnormal BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 genes can raise the risk of breast cancer.
So how do you learn about your risk?
Taking time to understand your family health history and reviewing it with health professionals is the first and most important step in finding out if you’re at increased risk of breast cancer.
Some factors like age increase everyone’s risk of breast cancer. But here are some red flags that people in your family might be at higher risk because of inherited genes or other family risk factors:
Those red flags may or may not increase your risk of breast cancer, but they should lead you to talking to your doctor about it.
To help yourself and others in your family:
Once you have a better handle on your risk, the genetic counselor and your doctor can help you look at lifestyle changes you can make including diet and exercise. Other changes might include:
About 5 to 10 percent of breast cancer cases are hereditary or genetic. The rest are sporadic – doctors don’t currently know what causes them. Even if you have a genetic mutation that increases the risk of breast cancer, it doesn’t mean you will get it.
Learning what there is to know about your risk and working with your health providers can put your mind at ease and help you tackle what can be tackled. You’ll also have a jump start on the new tests and treatments that are being discovered all the time.
Check out this story from a genetics and public health website illustrating one woman’s experience finding a lump – and learning more about her family history and risk through genetic counseling.