One of the most important risk factors of breast cancer is family history of breast cancer. Women with close relatives who’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer have a higher risk of developing the disease.
If you’ve had one first-degree female relative (sister, mother, daughter) diagnosed with breast cancer, your risk is doubled. If two first-degree relatives have been diagnosed, your risk is 5 times higher than average.
GENETICS: In some cases, a strong family history of breast cancer is linked to having an abnormal gene associated with a high risk of breast cancer, such as the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene. Others include TP53, PTEN etc
Steps you can take
There are lifestyle choices you can make to keep your risk of developing breast cancer as low it can be:
• maintaining a healthy weight
• exercising regularly
• eating nutritious food
• never smoking (or quitting if you do smoke)
• Limit exposure to chemicals and radiations
• Avoiding hormonal contraceptives
• Breast feeding your babies
More frequent screening: If you’re at high risk because of a strong family history of breast cancer, you and your doctor will develop a screening plan tailored to your unique situation. Recommended screening guidelines include:
- a monthly breast self-exam
- a yearly breast examby your doctor or nurse practitioner
- a mammogramevery year starting at age 40
Your personal screening plan also may include the following tests to detect any cancer as early as possible:
You may have these tests more often than a woman at average risk. So you might have one screening test — a mammogram, say — and then have a different test — an MRI — 6 months later. Before or after each screening test, your doctor may perform a breast exam. You also may start having these tests earlier than age 40.
Hormonal therapy medicines: Four hormonal therapy medicines have been shown to reduce the risk of developing hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer in women at high risk.
- The SERMs (selective estrogen receptor modulators) tamoxifen
- Evista (chemical name: raloxifene)
- Aromatase inhibitors Aromasin (chemical name: exemestane)
- Arimidex (chemical name: anastrozole)
Protective Surgery: Although not very common in Pakistan but it still is an option :removing one or both healthy breasts a— called prophylactic mastectomy (“prophylactic” means “protective”) —Prophylactic breast surgery may be able to reduce a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer by as much as 97%. The surgery removes nearly all of the breast tissue, so there are very few breast cells left behind that could develop into a cancer.
Prophylactic surgery decisions require a great deal of thought, patience, and discussion with your doctors, genetic counselor, and family over time — together with a tremendous amount of courage. Take the time you need to consider these options and make decisions that feel comfortable to you.
Of course, each woman’s situation is unique. Talk to your doctor about your personal level of risk and how best to manage it.