• DMS - Digital Mammography & Women's Imaging

Do You Have A Family History of Breast Cancer?

Does anyone in your family have or has had cancer? Does anyone in your family show any signs of cancer? Chances are you might be at potential risk of developing breast cancer later on. This risk is known as a family history of cancers.


If your very close family members, such as your mother, sister, or daughter, have been diagnosed with breast cancer, you might have double the risk of developing breast cancer.

If your father or brother has breast cancer, your risk is also higher but not confirmed.


This risk becomes five times greater if several relatives have breast cancer or developed one under 50. However, if only one close relative has breast cancer, then the woman might not develop it.

Why Is Breast Cancer Hereditary?

Breast cancer develops when you have a strong family history of certain kinds of cancers. This situation happens because of faulty genes known as BRCA1 and BRCA2 that increase breast cancer's potential risk.


However, having these abnormal genes might not always result in breast cancer. According to research, a faulty gene causes only 10 out of 100 breast cancers.


Risk Factors of Breast Cancer

There are certain risk factors that you don't have control over. These are:

1. Old Age: The likelihood of developing breast cancer increases with passing age. The diagnosis of most breast cancers is usually observed after 50 years of age.


2. Menstrual Cycle: Women's menstrual cycle also has a role in developing breast cancer. The risk is higher in women whose menstrual periods start before 12 years of age and those whose menopause happens after 55 years of age due to prolonged exposure to hormones.


3. Dense Breasts: Women having denser breasts are more likely to develop breast cancer.


4. Family History of Breast Cancer: Women having family members who have had cancer are more likely to develop breast cancer due to faulty genes.


5. History of Breast Cancer: Women having been diagnosed with breast cancer before can develop breast cancer for the second time as well. Certain non-cancerous breast diseases such as lobular carcinoma can also double the risk of developing breast cancer.


6. Radiation Therapy: Women who had breast radiation therapy for the treatment of Hodgkin's Lymphoma before 30 can develop breast cancer.


7. Diethylstilbestrol Ingestion: Diethylstilbestrol was given to pregnant women to prevent miscarriage between 1940 and 1971 in the United States.


Those women had a higher risk of developing breast cancer. The women whose mothers took Diethylstilbestrol when pregnant with them also have a chance of developing breast cancer.


There are certain risk factors that you can change. These are:


1. Sedentary Lifestyle: Physically inactive Women have a higher risk of developing breast cancer.


2. Obesity: Women who suffer from obesity, especially after menopause, are more likely to develop breast cancer than those who are not overweight.


3. Hormones Ingestion: Hormone therapy done during menopause can increase the risk of developing breast cancer when taken for more than five years.


4. Oral Contraceptives: Taking certain contraceptives such as birth control pills can increase breast cancer risk.


5. Pregnancy: If a woman has a pregnancy after 30, she can develop breast cancer. She can also create one if she has never done breastfeeding.


6. Alcohol Consumption: If a woman drinks regularly, she can develop breast cancer.


7. Smoking: Smoking regularly can also increase the risk of developing breast cancer.


8. Nutritious Food: Eating nutritious food lowers the risk of developing breast cancer.


9. Exercise: Women who lead an active lifestyle by regularly exercising are less likely to develop breast cancer.

Family History Risk Assessment

If your family history of breast cancer concerns you, you can schedule an appointment with your doctor for assessment. If you suffer from the following risk factors, then you would be referred for further assessment:

  • If your close relative has had breast cancer before 40 years of age.

  • If you or your family member has had cancer in both breasts, also known as bilateral breast cancer.

  • If your two family members have had breast cancer.

  • If your relatives have had ovarian cancer.

  • If a male family member has had breast cancer.

  • You are also at potential risk of developing breast cancer if you are of Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry.

  • If you or your family member have had sarcoma before the age of 45.

  • If you or your family members have had glioma, which is a brain tumor.

  • If your family members have had several cancers.

  • If your family has cancers that are linked to faulty genes.

Levels of Breast Cancer Risk

Given your breast cancer assessment, you are placed in three categories of breast cancer risks: general population risk, moderate risk, or high risk.

1. What is General Population Risk?

Being placed in general population risk means that only one family member has been diagnosed with breast cancer over 40 years. General population risk means that the risk of developing breast cancer is the same as that of the general population.

2. What Is Moderate Risk?

Being placed in moderate risk or familial risk means that the person has multiple family members diagnosed with breast cancer. If a person has a relative diagnosed with breast cancer under 40, he or she would be placed under this category.

The people placed into this category have double the risk of developing breast cancer than the general population. In this category, regular screening is offered by women's imaging specialists. They would also provide risk-reducing drug treatment.

3. What Is High Risk?

Being placed in high risk or hereditary risk means that person has several close relatives diagnosed with breast cancer over generations.


The people placed in this category have a moderate risk of developing breast cancer.

In this category, breast screening, risk-reducing treatments, genetic counseling, and genetic testing are offered by the women's imaging specialists.


These were some of the risk factors that you can avoid to reduce the potential risk of breast cancer. If you are still concerned about your family history of breast cancer, then consult your doctor.

References:

  1. https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/breast-cancer/risks-causes/family-history-and-inherited-genes

  2. https://www.breastcancer.org/risk/factors/family_history#:~:text=Women%20with%20close%20relatives%20who,cancer%2C%20your%20risk%20is%20doubled.

  3. https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/breast/basic_info/risk_factors.htm

  4. https://breastcancernow.org/information-support/have-i-got-breast-cancer/am-i-risk/breast-cancer-in-families/family-history

  5. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/breast_center/breast_cancers_other_conditions/family_history_breast_cancer.html


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