What to know if breast cancer runs in your family

October 7, 2014, University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa

Breast cancer is the second leading cause of death from cancer in women. A woman's lifetime risk of developing breast cancer is 12 percent (1 of every 8 women). Breast cancer risk is higher among women whose close blood relatives have this disease.

The University of Alabama's Dr. John McDonald offers some guidance on what women should know if breast cancer runs in their family.

  • According to the American Cancer Society, having one first-degree relative (mother, sister or daughter) with breast cancer approximately doubles a woman's risk; having two first-degree relatives increases her risk about three-fold. But less than 15 percent of women with breast cancer have a family member with this disease. This means that most (more than 85 percent) women who get breast cancer do not have a family history of this disease.
  • Early detection of breast cancer is important and affects a woman's long-term prognosis. Breast cancer screening includes (mammography, ultrasound and MRI), a clinical breast exam by a health-care professional and patient self-screening (breast self-exams and breast self-awareness).
  • Breast MRI is not recommended for screening women at average risk of developing breast cancer. However, the American Cancer Society does recommend enhanced screening (including breast MRI) for women with a 20 percent or greater lifetime risk of developing breast cancer, which includes the following: have a known BRCA 1 or 2 mutation; have a first-degree relative with a BRCA 1 or 2 mutation; a history of radiation therapy to the chest between the ages of 10 and 30; and other high-risk genetic syndromes. (BRCA 1 and 2 are human genes that produce tumor suppressor proteins. A harmful BRCA1 or 2 mutation can be inherited. A woman's of developing breast cancer is greatly increased if she inherits a harmful mutation in BRCA 1 or 2.)
  • Women in high-risk groups should be offered enhanced screening, which includes twice yearly clinical breast examinations by a health-care provider, annual mammography, annual breast MRI and instruction in breast self-examination.
  • If one or more of your relatives have had breast cancer, be sure to tell your doctor. If you are at risk, doctors will recommend starting screening earlier and using MRI scans, as well as mammograms. Screening can find earlier, when treatments are more likely to be successful.
  • Women should always report any changes in their breasts to their health-care provider as soon as possible for further evaluation.

Explore further: MRIs plus mammograms best for high-risk women, study finds

Related Stories

MRIs plus mammograms best for high-risk women, study finds

June 17, 2014
(HealthDay)—For the best chance at spotting breast cancer early, women at high risk need frequent MRI screenings along with mammograms, a large Canadian study contends.

Journal Maturitas publishes position statement on breast cancer screening

September 17, 2014
Elsevier, a world-leading provider of scientific, technical and medical information products and services, today announced the publication of a position statement by the European Menopause and Andropause Society (EMAS) in ...

MRI better detects recurrent breast cancer

August 19, 2014
(HealthDay)—Single-screening breast magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) detects 18.1 additional cancers after negative findings with mammography and ultrasonography (US) per 1,000 women with a history of breast cancer, according ...

Eight ways to prevent breast cancer​​​​​​

October 2, 2014
Breast cancer. Just reading those words can make many women worry. And that's natural. Nearly everyone knows someone touched by the disease.

Individualized breast cancer screening catches more cancer

August 12, 2013
(HealthDay)—A breast cancer screening program tailored to participants' individual risk profiles has a higher-than-expected breast cancer detection rate in 40- to 49-year old women, according to a pilot study published ...

Some women still don't underststand 'overdiagnosis' risk in breast screening

August 28, 2014
A third of women who are given information about the chance of 'overdiagnosis' through the NHS breast screening programme may not fully understand the risks involved, according to research published in the British Journal ...

Recommended for you

DNA vaccine leads to immune responses in HPV-related head and neck cancer

September 21, 2018
A therapeutic vaccine can boost antibodies and T cells, helping them infiltrate tumors and fight off human papillomavirus (HPV)-related head and neck cancer. Researchers from the Abramson Cancer Center of the University of ...

In zebrafish, a way to find new cancer therapies, targeting tumor modulators

September 21, 2018
The lab of Leonard Zon, MD, at Boston Children's Hospital has long been interested in making blood stem cells in quantity for therapeutic purposes. Looking for a way to test for their presence in zebrafish, their go-to research ...

What can salad dressing tell us about cancer? Think oil and vinegar

September 20, 2018
Researchers led by St. Jude Children's Research Hospital scientists have identified another way the process that causes oil to form droplets in water may contribute to solid tumors, such as prostate and breast cancer. The ...

Novel biomarker found in ovarian cancer patients can predict response to therapy

September 20, 2018
Despite months of aggressive treatment involving surgery and chemotherapy, about 85 percent of women with high-grade wide-spread ovarian cancer will have a recurrence of their disease. This leads to further treatment, but ...

Testing fluorescent tracers used to help surgeons determine edges of breast cancer tumors

September 20, 2018
A team of researchers with members from institutions in The Netherlands and China has conducted a test of fluorescent tracers meant to aid surgeons performing tumor removal in breast cancer patients. In their paper published ...

Cancer immunotherapy might benefit from previously overlooked immune players

September 20, 2018
Cancer immunotherapy—efforts to boost a patient's own immune system, allowing it to better fight cancer cells on its own—has shown great promise for some previously intractable cancers. Yet immunotherapy doesn't work ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.