My mother and sister have both been diagnosed and treated for breast cancer. Does this mean I will get breast cancer too?
C - Your risk is increased by two or three times that of the general population, and you are at higher risk of developing breast cancer before menopause. Your risk is even greater if your relative(s) developed breast cancer before menopause, or if the relative had breast cancer in both breasts. Note that only five to 10 percent of all breast cancers are hereditary. You should consult your doctor about personal breast cancer screening guidelines. You will probably be advised to have your first mammogram earlier and clinical breast exams at least once a year. You should continue to perform monthly breast self-exams, as recommended for the general population.
BRCA1 and BRCA2 inherited gene mutations (alterations in genetic material) increase a woman's risk of developing breast cancer.
A - True. Women with an altered BRCA gene usually have an increased risk of developing breast cancer and at a younger age (before menopause). However, not all women who carry the BRCA genes will develop cancer.
BRCA1 was the first gene detected that increased the risk for breast and ovarian cancer. The presence of this gene produces a greater than 80 percent risk of developing breast or ovarian cancer by age 85. BRCA1 appears to account for about 45 percent of inherited breast cancers and 80 percent of families with both breast and ovarian cancer. An estimated one in 600 women carry this gene.
A second gene, BRCA2, also plays a major part in breast and ovarian cancer. Less information is available on the function of this gene; however, it is associated with an increased risk of developing breast cancer among carriers. BRCA2 is also associated with an increased risk of ovarian cancer and may account for a genetic linkage of male breast cancer.
Both the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes can be inherited from either parent. Men or women who carry one of these gene mutations have a one in two (50/50) chance of passing it on to each of their children.
My risk for breast cancer starts to increase after age 35.
A - True. Breast cancer is uncommon in women under age 35. The risk of breast cancer increases as a woman grows older. About 70 percent of women diagnosed with breast cancer each year are over age 50, and almost half are age 65 and older.
Fibrocystic breast changes increase my risk of developing breast cancer.
B - False. Changes in hormone balances during normal, monthly menstrual cycles can create, for some women, symptomatic breast changes that are referred to as fibrocystic changes. These are often described as benign, tiny fluid-filled sacs that may feel like lumps. Tenderness and lump size commonly increase the week before the menstrual period and lessen a week after. The lumps may be hard or rubbery and can appear as a single breast lump that may be large or small. Fibrocystic changes can also appear as thickening of the breast tissue. Fibrocystic changes can occur in one or both breasts and are often prominent during a woman's 40s. These changes are the most common cause of benign breast lumps in women ages 35 to 50.
If I have been previously treated for breast cancer, it is not likely that I will develop breast cancer in the opposite breast.
A- False. If you have previously been treated for cancer in one breast, you have a higher risk of developing breast cancer in the same or the opposite breast, especially if the cancer occurred before menopause. There is a one-percent-per-year risk of a new breast cancer occurrence in the opposite breast. Although lobular carcinoma in situ is not cancer, it may be an indicator that a woman might develop invasive cancer.
My diet can affect my risk for breast cancer.
A - True. Although the possible link between diet and breast cancer is still being studied, some researchers believe that a well-balanced diet low in fat and high in fiber, fruits, and vegetables contributes to lowering a woman's risk. Maintaining ideal body weight and regularly exercising also appears to lower a woman's risk.
The benign condition atypical hyperplasia can increase my risk of developing breast cancer.
A - True. Usually, benign breast conditions rarely increase your risk of breast cancer. Some women have biopsies that show a condition called hyperplasia (excessive cell growth). Hyperplasia increases your risk only slightly. When the biopsy shows hyperplasia and abnormal cells, a condition called atypical hyperplasia, your risk of breast cancer increases somewhat more. Atypical hyperplasia occurs in about five percent of benign breast biopsies.
Other risk factors for breast cancer include:
A. Starting menstruation at an early age (before 12)
B. Late onset of menopause (after age 55)
D. Having a first child after age 30
E. Not having any children
F. All of the above
F. All of these are risk factors that increase a woman's chance of developing breast cancer.
Tamoxifen can be taken to reduce a woman's risk of developing breast cancer.
A - True. Women who have an increased risk of breast cancer can take tamoxifen to reduce their chances of developing breast cancer. Tamoxifen is also often given to women with breast cancer who are post-menopausal and whose breast cancer is found to be estrogen receptor-positive. When taken for five years, tamoxifen prevented the recurrence of the original breast cancer and also prevented the development of a second primary cancer in the opposite breast. Research has also shown a 50 percent reduction in breast cancer incidence among high-risk participants who took tamoxifen.
Using antiperspirant increases my risk of developing breast cancer.
B - False. There is no evidence to support this idea. Recent Internet e-mail rumors have suggested that underarm antiperspirants hamper sweat gland function and allow toxins to build up, thereby increasing the risk of developing breast cancer. This is not true.
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This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 4/1/2009...#8321