Although most cases of breast cancer are thought not to be hereditary, genetic inheritance has been shown to play a role in many breast cancer cases. A family history of breast and/or ovarian cancer may indicate a hereditary risk for developing one or both of these cancers. For example, if a woman has a first-degree relative (mother, daughter or sister) who has had breast cancer, her chances of developing the disease may be 2 to 3 times higher than that of the general population. People who have themselves had breast or ovarian cancer, have a history of breast or ovarian cancer in their family, or are of Ashkenazi (Eastern European) Jewish heritage are more likely to carry genes that place them at increased risk for developing breast cancer.
Although at present the most widely available laboratory testing for hereditary breast cancer analyzes the BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations, a significant proportion of all hereditary breast cancer may be caused by mutations in genes other than BRCA1 and BRCA2. This means that, even when the BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene tests do not reveal any mutation, a woman with a strong family history of breast cancer (as well as certain other cancers) may carry other genetic mutations that place her at significantly higher than average risk for developing breast cancer.
If there have been cases of breast or ovarian cancer in your family, you may want to consider consulting a genetic counselor or a breast surgeon, and have genetic testing to help you learn both your specific risk and to better inform yourself as you make important choices about your medical care.
Contact us if you would like to make an appointment and learn more about your options.