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Published on October 04, 2018

Breast Cancer Signs Run in the Family

Breast Cancer Signs Run in the Family

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women and the leading cause of cancer-related deaths in women in the United States. One in eight women will be diagnosed in her lifetime.

Taking preventative measures can reduce your risk or provide early detection. These include monthly self-exams, a yearly breast exam by a health care provider and yearly mammograms.

Breast cancer also runs in the family.

Women with close relatives who have had a cancer diagnosis have a higher risk of developing the disease. In fact:

  • If you have one first-degree female relative, such as a sister, mother or daughter, with breast cancer your risk for a diagnosis is doubled.
  • If you have two first-degree female relatives with breast cancer, your risk for a diagnosis could be as much as five times higher.
  • If you have a brother or father with a breast cancer diagnosis, your risk is also higher.
  • There are certain gene mutations that are inherited that may increase your risk for breast cancer. The mutations that are most common are in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. In some cases, an abnormality in the ATM, CHEK2 or PALB2 genes may be a catalyst for this type of cancer.

Breast Cancer Genetic Risk Infographic

If you are concerned about your family history, genetic counseling is an option. Genetic counseling involves a discussion with a genetic counselor who will review your family history with you. They will then have a conversation with you about your chance of being diagnosed with cancer. People who may benefit from meeting with a genetic counselor are those who:

  • Were diagnosed with cancer at age 50 or earlier.
  • Have a relative who got cancer at age 50 or earlier.
  • Are a man with breast cancer.
  • Have three family members on the same side of the family with breast cancers.
  • Are of Ashkenazi (Eastern European) Jewish ancestry and have a personal or family history of breast or ovarian cancer.

Genetic testing is not the right solution for everyone, so talk to your health care provider about options that are best for you.

About the Author

Karen Powell, MS, CGC Karen Powell, MS, CGC is a certified genetic counselor with Cone Health Cancer Center