Breast Cancer: When Family History Repeats Itself
The women in your family may share the same curly hair and sense of humor--and some of the same health risks, including breast cancer.
Most cases of breast cancer are not inherited. However, a woman whose sister or mother had breast cancer faces double the risk of getting the disease. The risk triples for women with a close relative who was diagnosed before age 50.
"In some families, breast cancer is caused by changes in certain genes," explained Arnold Baskies, MD, chief of oncological surgery at Lourdes Medical Center of Burlington County. "For example, mutations of two genes called BRCA1 and BRCA2 are related to higher breast cancer risk. They also may raise the risk for ovarian and even colorectal cancer."
Reducing Your Risk
Some women who have a family history of breast cancer and who test positive for these gene mutations may consider having a prophylactic--or preventive--mastectomy. This surgery removes one or both breasts to reduce cancer risk.
"A woman who is considering preventive mastectomy should talk with her doctor about her unique risk factors, the surgery itself and any potential complications," said Dr. Baskies.
If you do have a family history of breast cancer, other steps can help reduce your risk, including:
- Mammography: Ask about getting mammograms before age 40, when most women should begin screening.
- Additional testing: Other tests may help pinpoint your risks or identify early signs of breast cancer.
- Medication: Talk with your doctor about the pros and cons of taking a selective estrogen receptor modulator. This medicine may be beneficial in high-risk women.
- Lifestyle changes: A healthy lifestyle can reduce risk, too. Exercise regularly, don't smoke, maintain a healthy weight, eat plenty of fruits and vegetables and limit alcohol intake.
Where to Go
The Women's Center at Lourdes Medical Center of Burlington County The Women's Center offers state-of-the-art services in a caring environment. If it's time for your mammogram or you need care for another concern, give us a call at 609-835-3191.
Arnold Baskies, MD
For more information about Dr. Baskies or another Lourdes expert, call 1-888-LOURDES (568-7337) or visit the Lourdes Health System Web site at www.lourdesnet.org and click on "Find a Physician."