- Women's Health
Hereditary Breast Cancer: What Steps to take if it runs in Your Family
I am writing this particular hub based on my experiences with hereditary breast cancer. I recently took a few trips to the breast care center to talk with a Doctor and also a genetic counselor about my family history with breast cancer. Because my mother and great grandmother both had breast cancer, they considered me to be a moderate to high risk patient. After being told this, I was enrolled into a high risk breast and ovarian cancer program so that I could learn more about my options and also preventative care. I was told that some kinds of cancers such as breast and ovarian, run in families. If you know of anyone in your family that has ever had any type of cancer, then you should ask your Doctor for a referral and talk to someone about hereditary cancer.
On my first visit to the clinic, they sat down with me and asked me questions pertaining to my family history. They drew up a family tree in order to learn who may have had cancer, and at what age. They also asked me some questions that I thought were strange at first but understood why when they explained them. My case was a little difficult because my mother just recently found out who her biological father was and discovered she had several half brothers and one sister. If you have a family background similar to this, try to find out as much information as possible regarding all medical aspects. She also found out that none of her half siblings had ever had cancer; however her grandmother had cancer in her 50’s and again in her 80’s. It was not until after my mother went through having breast cancer that she was notified about her grandmother’s breast cancer. This type of information would have been very beneficial in preparing my mother for early detection and her own sanity. The Doctors told my mother that her breast cancer was mostly environmental and the rest was possibly genetic. That information cannot really be proven unless she has a genetic blood test. Also keep in mind that just because your family has a history of cancer, it does not necessarily mean that you will without a doubt get cancer. There are many other factors and most of them are still unknown by scientists.
My second trip to the breast care clinic was to talk with a genetic counselor about genetic blood testing. Genetic testing is a blood test that can determine if you have a chance of developing or passing certain types of inherited disorders. After going through my family tree and all the information I provided, she determined that I am more of a moderate risk and should, of course, continue my self breast examinations once a month and start mammograms at age 40. A few years ago, I had my first mammogram so they could get a base and to get it documented. It is very important to get everything documented especially if you change Doctors frequently. You never know what one Doctor might miss where the next one might detect. Because I am a moderate risk, I am also eligible for a breast MRI which can be taken along side of the mammogram which increases my chance of early detection. I have decided not to do the genetic blood testing at this time. It can be rather expensive and insurance doesn’t always cover it. Depending on the type of insurance you have, they may cover some but not all of the costs. There is also the question of having a precondition listed on your medical record, this may or may not affect your insurance now and especially in the future. Make sure you do the research to find out exactly what your insurance offers. Unfortunately, insurance companies can be tricky and unfair.
Early detection is a key element with cancer. I strongly recommend that anyone with a history of cancer in their family schedule an appointment with their Doctor. It never hurts to at least talk about it and learn about the risks and prevention. While talking to a Doctor, ask about the other preventative measures you can take; such as, eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and performing self breast examinations once a month. If you are large breasted you might want to consider getting a breast reduction, this will also decrease your chances of breast cancer. Check out this website I was given: www.facingourrisk.org I will also include some other helpful links.
Here is a list of steps to take if you find that you have cancer running in your family:
1. Find out all of the medical background of your family, as far back as you can go.
2. Ask your Doctor about hereditary cancer.
3. Research your insurance and what it offers.
4. Talk to the hereditary Doctor and counselor to learn about your risks and early detection.
5. Do self breast exams and ask your Doctor what age is best to start mammograms.
6. Make sure to eat healthy and exercise regularly, this will always decrease your chances of getting any types of cancer.
7. Remember, early detection is key, and always take care of yourself.
- National nonprofit organization devoted to hereditary breast and ovarian cancer - FORCE - Facing Our
A nonprofit organization for women whose family history and genetic status puts them at high risk for ovarian cancer and/or breast cancer, and for families in which a BRCA mutation may be present.
- Genetic Testing for Breast and Ovarian Cancer Risk - National Cancer Institute
Genetic Testing for Breast and Ovarian Cancer Risk: It's Your Choice