Family History of Breast Cancer

Certain biological factors including a family history of breast cancer may significantly raise your risk of developing the disease. Having a thorough understanding of your family’s medical history can help you make important decisions regarding your breast health. If you want to learn more about breast cancer risk factors, or if you have recently been diagnosed with breast cancer, please feel free to contact the Breast Surgery Center of Excellence for a consultation.

Is Breast Cancer Genetic?

A woman’s breast cancer risk depends in part on her family’s breast cancer history. Doctors assess a woman’s risk based on the number of close relatives who had the disease and the age at which they were

A woman’s risk is considered to be moderate if A) one first-degree relative had breast cancer at any age, B) two first or second-degree relatives had cancer after age 50, or C) one first or second-degree relative had ovarian cancer.

A woman’s risk is considered to be strong if two first or second-degree relatives had breast cancer, provided A) one was diagnosed before age 50, B) the diagnosis involved both breasts, or C) a male relative was diagnosed.

It’s important to remember that most women with a moderate risk of breast cancer will not go on to develop the disease. However, women with a strong family history of breast cancer may want to consider genetic testing to assess their risk further.

The Breast Cancer Genes

Many women with a family history of breast cancer choose to undergo genetic testing to protect their breast health. After performing a simple blood or saliva test, the doctor will examine the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes for signs of dangerous mutations. According to the American Cancer Society, women with harmful mutations of BRCA 1 or 2 are 5 times as likely to develop breast cancer as women without the mutations.  Understanding your particular risk factor can help you make decisions to preserve your health long-term.

Reducing Your Risk

Women who test positive for BRCA 1 or 2 and those with a strong family history of breast cancer may want to consider a preventative mastectomy. At the Breast Surgery Center of Excellence, our breast surgeons perform one-step mastectomies and breast reconstructions along with other procedures designed to preserve breast health and boost patients’ self–esteem. If you have been diagnosed with breast cancer, or if you’re concerned about your breast cancer risk, don’t hesitate to contact us.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is a first-degree relative? What is a second-degree relative?

A: First-degree relatives include parents, brothers, sisters and children. Second-degree relatives include aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews and grandparents.

Q: If breast cancer runs in my family, how likely am I to develop the disease?

A:  Most women with an average to moderate risk will not develop breast cancer. However, it’s important to talk to your doctor about your family’s history with cancer to determine your particular risk factor and develop a plan to protect your health.

Q: If I have a strong risk factor, should I undergo a preventative mastectomy?

A: A prophylactic double mastectomy can dramatically reduce a patient’s chances of developing breast cancer in the future. Talk to your doctor to determine if mastectomy is a good option for you.

Q: How long will I have to wait before undergoing breast reconstruction after a mastectomy?

A: Our breast surgeons are pleased to offer state-of-the-art One-Stage Breast Reconstruction. During this procedure, patients undergo a mastectomy and reconstruction at the same time. Feel free to call the Breast Surgery Center of Excellence if you would like to learn more about this exciting new surgery.

Contact the Breast Surgery Center of Excellence

Our team of doctors, nurses and medical professionals is dedicated to helping women overcome breast cancer and get back to living their lives. Call us at (888) 316-4167 for information about breast cancer procedures or determining your breast cancer risk factors.

Next, read about healthy breast care and self-exams.

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