Risk Factors You Can Change
- Not being physically active. Women who are not physically active have a higher risk of getting breast cancer.
- Being overweight or obese after menopause. Older women who are overweight or obese have a higher risk of getting breast cancer than those at a normal weight.
- Taking hormones. Some forms of hormone replacement therapy taken during menopause can raise risk for breast cancer when taken for more than five years. Certain oral contraceptives also have been found to raise breast cancer risk.
- Reproductive history. Having the first pregnancy after age 30, not breastfeeding, and never having a full-term pregnancy can raise breast cancer risk.
- Drinking alcohol. Studies show that a womans risk for breast cancer increases with the more alcohol she drinks.
Research suggests that other factors such as smoking, being exposed to chemicals that can cause cancer, and changes in other hormones due to night shift working also may increase breast cancer risk.
Having Certain Benign Breast Conditions
Women diagnosed with certain benign breast conditions may have a higher risk of breast cancer. Some of these conditions are more closely linked to breast cancer risk than others. Doctors often divide benign breast conditions into 3 groups, depending on how they affect this risk.
Non-proliferative lesions: These conditions dont seem to affect breast cancer risk, or if they do, the increase in risk is very small. They include:
- Fibrosis and/or simple cysts
- Mild hyperplasia
- Epithelial-related calcifications
- Other tumors
Mastitis is not a tumor and does not increase the risk of breast cancer.
Proliferative lesions without atypia : In these conditions theres excessive growth of cells in the ducts or lobules of the breast, but the cells don’t look very abnormal. These conditions seem to raise a womans risk of breast cancer slightly. They include:
- Usual ductal hyperplasia
- Several papillomas
- Radial scar
Proliferative lesions with atypia: In these conditions, the cells in the ducts or lobules of the breast tissue grow excessively, and some of them no longer look normal. These types of lesions include:
Breast cancer risk is about 4 to 5 times higher than normal in women with these changes. If a woman also has a family history of breast cancer and either hyperplasia or atypical hyperplasia, she has an even higher risk of breast cancer.
For more information, see Non-cancerous Breast Conditions.
Lobular carcinoma in situ
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 father’s 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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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
First-degree = parents, brothers, sisters, children
Second-degree = aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, grandparents, grandchildren
Triple negative cancers are a type of breast cancer that lack estrogen receptors, progesterone receptors, and human epidermal growth factor receptor 2.
Collecting Your Family History
Your mother is an important figure in your cancer risk profile if she has or has had breast cancer. But, given the above, it’s also helpful to find out if cancer has affected other family members, including grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Don’t assume that you know this informationit’s worth specifically asking.
For the purpose of building your own family history, you need to know:
- What type of cancer a relative had
- What age they were diagnosed
- If they were cured, still living with cancer, or have died
Other details, such as the grade, type, and stage of cancer are not as important for you to know. If you develop breast cancer, your medical team will identify your own grade, type, and stage rather than relying on your family history.
If your mother or father are alive and able to share your family’s background with you, filling out the Cancer Family History Questionnaire that was created by the American Society of Clinical Oncology can help you keep track of the information. Once you gather your family history, it would be useful to keep that record for yourself and for other family members who share some of your family medical history.
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As A Woman I Have Always Felt Aware Of Breast Cancer My Moms Best Friend Had Breast Cancer When I Was Growing Up And I Felt Like I Was Always Hearing About Looking For Lumps And Mammograms From The Adult Women Around Me I Thought Why Do We Need An Awareness Month When We Girls And Women Are Fully Aware
Needless to say when my mosquito bite breasts started to come in I thought they were lumps and I was going to die. I wasnt fully aware of what was actually going on with my body and not fully aware of breast cancer.
Breast Cancer Awareness Month is not just to inform people that hey, breast cancer is a thing! We all know its a thing. It is to make us aware of changes in our bodies. It is to help us understand the myths about it, that there are more symptoms than just lumps, what the risk factors are, and how to detect breast cancer. Here are just a few things to be aware of according to the National Breast Cancer Foundation.
Make Sure Youre Cared For Too
Taking care of a loved one whos experiencing a serious illness can affect you, not just emotionally, but physically. The stress and concern I experienced over my moms diagnosis led to disrupted sleep, a constantly upset stomach, and a diminished appetite. This made supporting and caring for my mom more difficult than it needed to be.
Prioritizing your well-being with simple things, like making sure youre hydrated, eating regularly, and dealing with your stress, ensures you can continue to care for a loved one in a manageable way.
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Do You Need Genetic Testing For Breast Cancer
Being able to identify if youre at increased risk for breast cancerbecause of family history is powerful.
Youve seen reports about women with a family history of breast cancer choosing preventive surgery to significantly reduce their breast cancer risk. Since your grandmother, mom or sister has had breast cancer, its got you wondering: Do you need genetic testing to find out if youre more likely to develop the disease?
Being able to identify if youre at increased risk for breast cancer because of family history is powerful, says Banu Arun, M.D., professor in Breast Medical Oncology and Clinical Cancer Prevention, and co-medical director of Clinical Cancer Genetics at MD Anderson. If your chances for developing the disease are higher, you have options to reduce those chances by up to 95%, Arun says.
Yet, most cancer cases arent related to family history. Only about 5 to 10% of cancer cases are related to genetics, Arun says. This means that genes linked to cancer pass from one blood relative to another.
Below, Arun shares the information you need to decide if genetic testing for breast cancer is right for you.
Know your familys cancer history
You can start to understand your risk for inherited breast cancer by mapping your familys cancer history.
Check for these factors to determine if you may be at risk:
Discuss your family history with your doctor
Understand the genes linked to breast cancer
Assess genetic testing pros and cons
Breast Cancer Risk Factors You Cannot Change
A risk factor is anything that increases your chances of getting a disease, such as breast cancer. But having a risk factor, or even many, does not mean that you are sure to get the disease.
Some risk factors for breast cancer are things you cannot change, such as getting older or inheriting certain gene changes. These make your risk of breast cancer higher.
For information on other known and possible breast cancer risk factors, see:
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Find Support In Other Caregivers
There are many online and in-person resources that facilitate connecting with other caregivers, like the Family Caregiver Alliance. Other caregivers, both past and present, understand this unique experience more than most friends or colleagues ever could.
I never fully explored these options because I feared caregiving would become a part of my identity. In my mind, that meant having to confront the reality of the situation. And the depth of my fear and grief.
I shouldve used my friend Jen as a resource in this capacity. She was incredibly supportive during that time, but I can only imagine how much better I wouldve felt if Id shared the extent of what I was going through, caregiver to caregiver.
If My Mother Or Sister Had Breast Cancer Does That Mean I Will Probably Get Breast Cancer Too
Susan Caro answers the question: ‘If My Mom Had Breast Cancer, What About Me?’
— Question: If my mother or sister had breast cancer, does that mean I will probably get breast cancer too?
Answer:Many, many women are worried about that. If you have a mom or sister diagnosed with breast cancer, then your risk is greater than when you don’t have a mom or sister with breast cancer.
It’s important to look at the whole family history as well as just one individual with breast cancer in your family to get a clearer picture of what your risk is. Women who have multiple family members may have one of these inherited mutations that puts them at significantly increased risk.
In general, if you have one first-degree relative with breast cancer, your risk may be two or three times greater than the general population.
But other factors come into play and we can get a little more specific about risk estimates if you know how old that individual was when she was diagnosed with breast cancer and other factors that go along with it. So it’s helpful to try and clarify for individuals what their risk may be.
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Screening And Prevention Recommendations For Women With Brca1 Or Brca2 Mutations:
- Have a gynecologic exam 12 times per year.
- Be aware of the symptoms of ovarian cancer and contact your doctor if these are new, occur almost daily and are present for more than 23 weeks.
- Have both a transvaginal ultrasound and the CA-125 blood test two times per year starting at age 3035 until the ovaries and fallopian tubes are removed preventively.
- Have breast cancer screening with annual mammogram and breast MRI starting at age 2530.
- Undergo preventive removal of the ovaries and fallopian tubes after childbearing is done.
Would You Take Hrt If Your Mum Had Breast Cancer
That’s it really. My GP has confirmed an early menopause . She said the usual response for someone my age would be to prescribe hrt until the normal age for menopause. However my mum had breast cancer at the age if 53 which she ascribes to hrt taken from age 50. Having had 12 cancer free years she now has secondaries in bones and lungs. I am struggling with menopausal symptoms and really don’t know what to do as obviously there has been such a negative association for breast cancer risks.Has anyone been in this position? And/or what would you do?
it’s tricky- I would say no but then I have secondary bc – it’s a matter of balance really- if your menopausal symptoms are making life really miserable then it seems sensible to try HRT but with a watchful eye on your breasts Horrid dilemma. Best wishes to your mum.
Thanks for your response – i appreciate you replying – and all the best to you too
What symptoms are you struggling with? I’m 53 now and it’s over a year since my last period, so I’m fairly sure I’m through it .My GP, in a very brief conversation, said to look at the herbal route. TBH, the only thing I have that bothers me is the hot flushes, and they aren’t really that bad. I take a Boots Menolieve tablet every evening. The other thing that I do, which makes a massive difference, is to follow a low carb diet. Sugar is known to be something that can trigger flushes.
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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.
Having Radiation To Your Chest
Women who were treated with radiation therapy to the chest for another cancer when they were younger have a significantly higher risk for breast cancer. This risk depends on their age when they got radiation. The risk is highest for women who had radiation as a teen or young adult, when the breasts are still developing. Radiation treatment in older women does not seem to increase breast cancer risk.
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Will I Die Of Breast Cancer
This is a difficult question to answer early in your cancer care but it is still worth asking. Many people just diagnosed with cancer have no idea how much of a risk to their life their unique situation poses. Most breast cancers carry a low risk of recurrence, especially early-stage cancers. The answer is usually reassuring.
Your Family History Risk Assessment Appointment
Try to find out as much about your family history as you can from other relatives before your appointment. You may be asked to complete a questionnaire about your family history before being offered an appointment or you may be asked for this information at your appointment. The person looking at your family history will understand if you cant find all the relevant information.
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:
- for your known family history on both 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
- about your own breast cancer diagnosis .
If you dont have information about your family history or blood relatives, your risk assessment can only be based on whatever information you have.
At the end of your appointment, if your specialist team has enough information you will be told what your level of risk is based on your family history.
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