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If My Grandmother Had Breast Cancer Will I Get It

My Mother Aunts And Grandmother All Had Breast Cancernow I Have It Too

Two-Time Breast Cancer Survivor

Gloria Wilson, 58, from Queens, New York was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 1996 when she was 38 years old. She was diagnosed again in 2002, at the age of 44. Today, Gloria is breast-cancer free. Her daughter, Oni Wilson, now 30, was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2014 at 28, and in July 2016, she was diagnosed with a metastatis in her lung. Here, they talk about what it’s like to watch a family member go through cancer.

Gloria: When I was first diagnosed with breast cancer at 38 years old, I had already been doing mammograms regularly for 4 years. I demanded my doctors start them very early, since my mom, my two sisters, and two of my aunts all died of breast cancer. The lump I found on my chest seemed small. The doctor said it was a fibroid. But after a year, I didn’t like the way it was growing and we decided to remove it. When the doctors took it out, it was greyish and clammy. It was breast cancer.

When I found out, I remember praying to God to allow me to raise my daughter. I was scared because I didn’t want to leave Oni too young. She was 8. But I was really open with her. I used to give myself white cell injections in front of her, until my sister confided in me that it bothered Oni and I should hide it.

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I understood my mom was sick and the medication would make her lose her hair and kill all of her good cells.

Gloria: Definitely. Stay positive.

Waiting For An Assessment

Being referred to a family history clinic for assessment can be a worrying time.

Its natural to feel anxious when youre waiting for a risk assessment.

Youll probably have your own way of managing your anxiety during this time of uncertainty, such as keeping busy or talking to family and friends.

If you would like to talk to someone about any concerns, you can call our free Helpline on 0808 800 6000.

Information Youll Be Asked At Your Appointment

At the appointment youll be asked about any type of cancer in all your blood relatives on both sides of your family.

This includes your mother and father, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews, cousins, grandparents, great uncles and great aunts.

Youll be asked about:

  • Your known family history on your mothers and fathers sides, including family members who have not had cancer, and the age at which any of them died
  • How the people diagnosed with cancer are related to you
  • How the people diagnosed with cancer are related to each other
  • What type of cancer each person had
  • How old each person was when diagnosed
  • Whether the same person has had more than one cancer
  • Your ethnic background
  • Your own breast cancer diagnosis if you have been diagnosed

If you dont have information about your family history or your blood relatives, your risk assessment can only be based on whatever information you have.

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Fathers Transmission Of Genetic Mutations

Every year, more than 690,000 women in developed countries are diagnosed with breast cancer and 189,488 die from the disease, McCuaig and her team report. An additional 100,254 of ovarian cancer cases are diagnosed worldwide each year with about 64,466 deaths. As many as 30% of women who are diagnosed with breast or ovarian cancer have a family history of cancer, according to the researchers.

âWith an increased awareness by healthcare providers of the potential paternal transmission of BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations, together with their ability to provide accurate risk assessments, fewer opportunities for cancer prevention will be missed,â McCaiug and her team write.

Elizabeth A. Poynor, MD, a gynecologic oncologist and pelvic surgeon at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, notes that the study results have important implications for health care providers. âThe authors of this study have demonstrated that the paternal, or fathers side of the family tree may be frequently under evaluated, potentially leading to an under recognition of cancer risk in women,â Poynor says in a news release. âThe study reinforces the importance of obtaining the appropriate three generation family history of cancer and other illnesses as well as the importance of educating primary care providers and women about cancer risk identification.â

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I Wear Pink for My Grandma Breast Cancer Awareness T Shirt

Gloria: I could not support Oni taking off her breasts that early in her life. She wasnt even dating. I just figured as long as she does her screening, we would catch it.

Oni: I thought that if I changed my habits, ate better, I might be able to bypass cancer. So I just kept feeling for lumps through self-checkups. Three times on both breasts I went in and got sonograms, mammograms, and biopsies, which always came back benign.

Then, in 2014, I found a bigger lump. Before, they were always pretty small, but this was substantially bigger. A biopsy confirmed I was positive for stage 2 breast cancer. I was devastated. I was 28, which is pretty young compared to my mom and my grandmother, who were in their mid- to late-thirties when they were first diagnosed with breast cancer.

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Gloria: I couldnt believe it. I kept asking myself what went wrong. What did we do wrong? How could this have happened? I felt guilty. I just had to keep snapping myself out of it.

“Around 2008, I had started feeling lumps in my breast.”

I got the results back this July: The treatment I had didnt get this small piece of my breast cancer, which hid and grew and moved to the lung.

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What Matters Most To You

Your personal feelings are just as important as the medical facts. Think about what matters most to you in this decision, and show how you feel about the following statements.

Reasons to have a breast cancer gene test

Reasons not to have a gene test

I want to let relatives know if I test positive so that they can think about having the test.

If I tested positive, I would not want to tell my relatives.

Talking With Your Health Care Provider

If you have a family history of breast or other type of cancer, your health care provider can help you understand how this impacts your risk of breast cancer.

My Family Health History Tool

My Family Health History tool is a web-based tool that makes it easy for you to record and organize your family health history. It can help you gather information thats useful as you talk with your family members, doctor or genetic counselor.

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Does My Daughter Have An Increased Risk Of Breast Cancer

I am the mother of a healthy four-year-old daughter. My husband’s mother and one of her sisters have had breast cancer in their early 50s. As far as I know, neither my mother-in-law nor her sisters have been tested for the BRCA genes.

A few years ago, my mother mentioned genetic testing to my husband’s mother . My mother-in-law said in no uncertain terms that she did not understand why my mother thought this would be necessary, and the conversation was abruptly closed. My husband does not have a good relationship with his mother or aunts, and conversations beyond the quarterly catch-up phone calls tend to get heated, or lead to misunderstandings and complaints.

Should I broach the subject for my daughter’s sake or simply talk to her, when she is old enough to understand the importance of checks and explain that, because of the history of breast cancer on her paternal side, she should be particularly aware of disease and let her decide for herself whether to be tested in adulthood?

Is this a strong enough family history to justify her being tested now, while she is still a child? Or should my husband have a test to see if he has the gene before we decide whether our daughter should be tested?

G, via email

I spoke to Professor Nazneen Rahman, head of the cancer genetics clinical unit at the Royal Marsden Hospital, and it is with her input that I am replying to you.

What Is Genetic Testing

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There are several genes which may contain inherited faults linked to the development of breast cancer and ovarian cancer. You may have heard of these they are called BRCA1 and BRCA2. Faults in these genes can be detected using a blood test. Usually, a sample of blood is first taken from a woman in the family who has developed breast cancer or ovarian cancer. The DNA is searched for a gene fault. If a gene fault is detected, then other family members can be tested to see if they carry the same fault.

This testing is recommended in circumstances where there is a strong family history of breast cancer and/or ovarian cancer. The testing is only done under the supervision of a specialised clinic. There are pros and cons to genetic testing, and these will be discussed with you at a family cancer clinic.

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Breast And Ovarian Cancer And Family History Risk Categories

This table provides examples of average, moderate, and strong family health histories of breast and ovarian cancer. This may help you understand if you have an increased risk for these cancers based on your family health history.

Note: This table does not include all possible family health histories of breast and ovarian cancer. If you have concerns about your family health history of breast or ovarian cancer, please talk to your doctor. Your doctor may assess your risk based on your personal and family health history, using one of the following:

Results may vary, depending on the tool used, and may differ from the risk categories below, which are based largely on the guidelines from the National Comprehensive Cancer Network.1

Family History Risk Category

Average: Typically not increased risk, similar to the general population risk

Average: Typically not increased risk, similar to the general population risk

No first or second-degree relatives with breast or ovarian cancer


One second-degree female relative with breast cancer diagnosed after age 50

No first or second-degree relatives with breast or ovarian cancer


One second-degree female relative with breast cancer diagnosed after age 50

Grandmother with breast cancer diagnosed at age 75

Grandmother with breast cancer diagnosed at age 75

Genetic counseling and testing for hereditary breast and ovarian cancer is not typically recommended for this type of family


One first or second-degree relative with:

Category : At Or Slightly Above Average Risk

95% of women are in this group.

Women in this group have:

  • No family history of breast cancer, or
  • Family history of breast cancer occurring in:
  • One first-degree relative at age 50 or older, or
  • One second-degree relative at any age, or
  • Two first or second-degree relatives over the age of 50, on different sides of the family, or
  • Two second-degree relatives on the same side of the family, both with breast cancer at age 50 or older

The risk of developing breast cancer in this group is the same or only slightly higher than the average woman in the general population.

90% of women in this group will not develop breast cancer.

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Where We Are Now

In the aftermath of her diagnosis, my mom opted to do further genetic testing to determine as much as possible whether her cancer was inherited. For her, knowledge is power and her high-risk, early screening had already saved her once. Eighteen more genes were tested, and BRCA 1 and 2 were retested and they all came back negative. Despite our familys history, its unclearthough unlikelythat my moms breast cancer resulted from an inherited gene.

Thats good-ish news. It means that based on these tests, there is no indication that my mother, my sister and I have an increased risk of breast cancer. But, because of our family history, Im not exactly considered low risk, either. In fact, I qualify for high-risk screening beginning at 30 . My next step is to determine when and if I want to begin that screening. For me, its a no-brainer. Ive already received a referral and at about the time I celebrate my 30th birthday later this month, Ill meet with doctors to learn more about the high-risk screening process.

If one day I do find myself with the same diagnosis, Ill remember her strength and resilience and hopefully Ill have a whole arsenal of protective factors to help me through. As I look at the photo now, I think about something else my mom said after her cancer treatment: Its been tough, but Im stronger than I thought I was. Though I doubt theres a genetic test to prove it, theres a good chance I am too.

Choosing Surgery To Prevent Breast Cancer

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Ninan says women with BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations face a significant risk of breast and ovarian cancer. Prophylactic removal of the fallopian tubes and ovaries is recommended by about age 40. Many women with BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations will also elect to have their breasts removed. Nipple-sparing mastectomy is an effective option for these patients, she says.

Making the decision to have an elective preventive double mastectomy and removal of the ovaries is personal, and should be based on many life factors. You must balance where you are in your childbearing years, what your future choices may be, and whether you would prefer to follow a rigorous screening schedule instead of making such a life-altering choice.

If you are facing this decision, you are not alone. Caring specialists can ensure you have all the facts, and, if surgery is ultimately your choice, guide you in the appropriate breast surgery reconstruction to help restore your body image after treatment. If you are interested in discussing ovary removal surgery , your doctor can refer you to a specialist in gynecological oncology.

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Am I More At Risk If My Relatives Have Cancer

Some types of cancer can run in families. For example, your risks of developing certain types of breast cancer, bowel cancer or ovarian cancer are higher if you have close relatives who developed the condition.

This doesn’t mean you’ll definitely get cancer if some of your close family members have it, but that you may have an increased risk of developing certain cancers compared with other people.

It’s estimated that between 3 and 10 in every 100 cancers are associated with an inherited faulty gene.

Cancers caused by inherited faulty genes are much less common than those caused by other factors, such as ageing, smoking, being overweight and not exercising regularly, or not eating a healthy, balanced diet. Most cancers develop as a result of a combination of risk factors, which in some cases can include family history.

Some types of cancer are less likely to be genetic, such as cervical cancer and lung cancer.

It’s only likely that a cancer gene is present in a family if:

  • there are 2 or more close relatives on the same side of the family with the same type of cancer, or with particular types of cancer that are known to be linked for example, breast and ovarian cancer or bowel and womb cancer
  • cancers are occurring at young ages
  • a close relative has had 2 different types of cancer

What If Your Mom Had Cancer

If Your Mother Had Cancer, Are You At Risk? What is The Role of Family History? Should You Get Tested? There is a link between mothers, daughters and cancer risk.

A family history of certain types of cancer can increase your risk. Cancers that most commonly run in families include breast cancer, ovarian cancer, cervical cancer, uterine cancer, prostate cancer and colon cancer. That is why we encourage self exams and screening tests for these cancers. Get them!

Just because your mom had cancer, whether that be breast cancer does not mean that you will be struck with breast cancer as well. The causes of cancer are complex. Not only genetics, but lifestyle factors such a dietary, exercise and sleep habits as well as exposures to environmental cancer causing chemicals contribute to the development of cancer.

Men get breast cancer too!! A man who has a close male relative with breast cancer can also be at increased risk for breast cancer too!!!

If a woman has a close male relative who had prostate cancer will also have increased risk of breast cancer because the physiology of these cancers is very similar. Breast cancer and prostate cancer are both characterized by hormonal metabolic and inflammatory proceses that can occur in both men and women and target hormonally sensitive tissues.

So, what can you do to lower cancer risk?

Here are the most important steps you can take now


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Guidelines For Breast Cancer Screening

If you have a genetic risk factor for breast cancer, regular screening is an essential part of your care. Specialists have access to additional resources for calculating patients breast cancer risk, and can use these data to recommend screening schedules. Your doctor will recommend a screening plan thats most appropriate for you.

At Johns Hopkins, enhanced surveillance for high-risk patients consists of a breast exam every six months, alternating mammograms with MRI scans to minimize radiation exposure, says Ninan. For women with a family history of breast cancer but with no known gene mutation, screening can begin five years before the earliest age at diagnosis in the family. For example, if your mother was diagnosed when she was 35, you should begin screening when you are 30.

For women with a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation, screening could start as early as age 25, Ninan says. There is some concern that the radiation exposure from mammograms performed before age 30 could increase breast cancer risk, especially in BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutation carriers. With that in mind, screening early in life usually consists of breast exams and MRI scans, if called for.


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