Breast Cancer Genetic Counseling
You can develop breast cancer without having a strong family history of the disease. However, when there is a higher incidence of breast cancer in your family, there may be reason to believe that a person has inherited an abnormal gene linked to higher breast cancer.
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The Gail Model
There is a formula available called the Gail model that helps put a number value on a woman's breast cancer risk. One of the elements in the calculation has to do with the number of first degree relatives who have had breast cancer. First degree relatives would be mothers, sisters and daughters. This number is then entered into the formula along with other parameters and the program gives a percentage number of the risk.
Your Family History
If there appears to be a number of relatives with breast cancer and they are particularly young or if the patient herself is young (under fifty) we may be dealing with specific mutations known as BRCA 1 and BRCA 2.
BRCA1 and BRCA2 are human genes that produce tumor suppressor proteins, which help repair damaged DNA. These proteins help ensure the stability of the genetic material of cells. When either of these genes, BRCA1 or BRCA2, are mutated, cancer may develop.
Specific inherited mutations of BRCA1 and BRCA2 tend to increase the risk of female breast and ovarian cancers. About 12% of women in the general population will develop breast cancer sometime during their lives. However, according to the most recent estimates, 65% of women who inherit a BRCA1 mutation and about 45% of women who inherit a BRCA2 mutation will develop breast cancer by the age of 70.
Many people decide to learn whether or not they have an abnormal gene that is linked to higher breast cancer risk. A genetic test involves giving a blood sample that can be analyzed to pick up any abnormalities in these genes. Community Care Physicians has genetic counselors available to you to review the benefits and risks of genetic testing and to answer any questions you may have.