Breast Cancer in My Family: Should I be Worried?

Breast Cancer

A woman with a close relative who has been diagnosed with breast cancer has a higher risk of developing this deadly cancer form. If you’re in a first-degree relationship such as daughter, mother, or sister, the risk factor becomes double and five-times higher than average.

Whether you or a close relative had a breast cancer history, you need to worry about the increased risk of this disease in your family.

What is a ‘Significant Family History’?

You’ll Be Considered to Have a ‘Significant Family History’ if You Tick Any One of the Boxes:-

  • You or a close relative has had a breast tumor before the age of 40.
  • You or a close relative has had in both the breasts, known as the Bilateral Breast Cancer.
  • You or a close relative has had Triple Negative Breast Cancer.
  • You and a close relative have had this cancer.
  • Two or more close relatives have had breast tumors.
  • A male relative has had breast cancer.

Other risk factors that suggest you have a ‘Significant Family History’ are that you belong to the Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry, genetic conditions in the family, or any other rare cancer form.

Having a ‘Significant Family History’ puts you at a greater risk of developing breast cancer. The blood relatives will also be at higher breast tumor risk.

What Are ‘Breast Cancer Genes’?

Roughly 5 to 10% of breast cancer cases are hereditary, abnormal passing of the parent’s genes to the child. Most inherited breast cancer patients had the BRCA1 (BReast CAncer gene one) mutations and BRCA2 (BReast CAncer gene two) genes.

Everyone has both the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. The primary function of the BRCA genes repair the cells that have been damaged and keep the ovarian, breast, and other cells growing normally. But, when these genes have mutations passed from one generation to another, they don’t function efficiently and increase the risk of breast cancer and other cancer types.

Having the BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations doesn’t mean you’ll surely be diagnosed with breast cancer, but the odds are on the higher side.

What Should I Do As I’m Concerned?

Breast Cancer

Having a ‘Significant Family History’ means you have a higher risk, but it doesn’t guarantee you’ll develop a tumor in one or both the breasts. The risks can be managed, so you need to find the risk level if you’re worried.

The first step is to speak to your doctor. They may advise you to take the genetic test to discover whether you have inherited an altered gene.

If you are experiencing breast cancer symptoms, such as tenderness in one or both the breasts, unusual nipple discharge, swelling or thickening of breasts, any change in the shape or size of the breasts, breast, etc.let your doctor know.

The doctor will first conduct the physical exam of your breast’s skin & nipple for discharge. They may feel your breast and area under the armpit to identify any lump formation. Your doctor may recommend you to take the PCR Master Mix test to detect the presence of cancerous cells in one or both the breasts.

The PCR Master Mix test is also done frequently during the treatment to monitor the treatment’s positive results and after your treatment to track the tumor’s recurrence.

Steps You Can Take

You can adopt certain lifestyle changes if you want to keep the risk of breast cancer as low as possible. These include:-

  • Maintain healthy body weight.
  • Exercise daily, at least 15 to 20 minutes a day.
  • Limit your alcohol intake.
  • Have a nutritious diet.

Conclusion

If you fall in the high-risk category of getting diagnosed with breast cancer because of strong family history, talk to your doctor to plan out a screening schedule. Recommended screening guidelines include a monthly breast self-exam, once a year breast exam by your doctor, and a mammogram yearly starting at age 40.