Breast Cancer Gene Tips

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Will I get breast cancer if I have a BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation?

Relating Your Family History Risk to the BRCA1 and BRCA2 Gene Mutation

Category: Non-Modifiable Breast Cancer Risk Factors

The research is startling: Women who have inherited BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation have up to an 80% chance of receiving a breast cancer diagnosis during their lifetime (and at a younger age) over those who are not born with a gene mutation. But if you have a strong family history of breast cancer, don't accept a diagnosis as your fate. You can still reduce your risk of developing this disease. While research suggests that some breast cancer diagnoses are the result of an inherited mutation of genes BRCA1 and BRCA2, it's estimated that only 5% to 10% of all breast cancers are caused by these mutated genes. There is no guarantee you are going to be diagnosed with breast cancer because your mother was diagnosed. A high percentage of breast cancers are caused by gene mutations that are acquired over time and not inherited, so it's worth exploring modifiable breast cancer risk factors for your own proactive healthcare. Studies have shown that solid nutrition, maintaining a healthy weight, moderate exercise and minimal consumption of alcohol have a much higher impact on reducing your cancer risk than the family you were born into. Don't feel that if you have cancer in your family history, there is nothing you can do about it. Learn how lifestyle changes can reduce your risk and change your family tree.

How can I find out whether I carry the breast cancer gene?

Genetic Testing Procedure For Breast Cancer

It is a simple procedure for getting tested for mutations in the BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 related to an increased risk for cancer. The first step is letting your doctor know that you would like to be tested. Your doctor will then make arrangements for this procedure, which is nothing more than a simple blood test. Your DNA will be examined to see whether your BRCA 1 and 2 genes are normal. If you are found to have mutations, your doctor will discuss with you the next steps to be taken, and his or her advice and reassurance will help put things into perspective.

What is a breast cancer gene?

Certain Genes Are A Risk Factor For Breast Cancer

Every cell in the body contains DNA, which contains the genetic information on how the cell should function, reproduce, and die. Small portions of the DNA that carry these instructions are called genes. A change in a gene is called a mutation, and this can create a problem in which the cell does not function properly. Sometimes, this mutation can impede the cell's ability to turn off reproduction, which can lead to cancer.

Different mutations can arise spontaneously in the DNA over the course of a person's lifetime. However there are some mutations, which can also be inherited. Scientists have identified two genes in particular, BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 (breast cancer genes 1 and 2), which when mutated, can lead to breast cancer. Mutations in these genes can be passed from generation to generation, causing a familial risk of breast cancer. It is important to note that every woman possesses the BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 genes. However it is when these genes are mutated, that breast cancer can occur. Anyone with a strong family history of breast cancer, should strongly consider being tested to see if you carry the mutated forms of these genes.

How do breast cancer genes cause cancer?

How Breast Cancer Genes Can Lead To Disease

When the breast cancer genes, BRCA 1 and BRCA 2, were discovered in 1994, they were merely known to correlate with an increased risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer. Studies conducted since 1994, and scientists began to do studies to get more information about the breast cancer gene. It is now known that these genes are tumor suppressor genes which function to suppress the growth of tumor cells and repair damaged DNA, when these genes function properly. Mutations in BRCA1 and BRCA 2 might prevent cells from making necessary repairs, which in turn can lead to misread DNA and malfunctioning cells that become cancerous. The mutated and potentially cancer-causing forms of these genes can be passed from parent to child. However, inherited genetic mutations linked to breast cancer are that are not common, accounting for only about 5 to 10 percent of cancer cases.

What should I do if I find out I carry the breast cancer gene?

Options for Women Who Test Positive for Breast Cancer Gene Mutations

If you have discovered that you carry a mutation in the BRCA 1 or BRCA 2 gene, what should your next step be? Instead of sending a sarcastic thank you note to your parents, asking your doctor's advice would be most beneficial. Your doctor will be able to provide you with more information about breast cancer genes, and your risk for developing breast cancer. Having a mutated breast cancer gene does not mean you will get cancer. In the regard, there are preventive measures like taking tamoxifen (a preventive drug) that can be adopted. Even if you are eligible, this would be a major step to take, and is definitely not for everyone.

Many women settle on early screening procedures, like MRIs in place of traditional mammograms if you are young and your breasts are currently too dense for effective mammography. However, it is good to remember that breast cancer, even if you do get it, is a highly treatable disease.

If I carry the breast cancer gene, will I eventually get cancer?

Prognosis for Women Who Carry A Mutated Gene

It is still unclear the prognosis for a woman who has a mutated BRCA 1 or BRCA 2 gene developing breast cancer. Early statistics released have indicated a risk of 40 percent for someone with a mutated gene, while other research has now suggested the number might be closer to 80 percent. However, one thing is certain, if you have a mutated form of one of these genes, you are at greater risk for breast cancer than someone who does not. It is not definite that you will develop breast cancer during your lifetime, but it does mean you should be more diligent about taking care of your breasts. As a carrier of the breast cancer gene, consider yourself fortunate that through screening and proper care, you will have a head start in beating this disease if it does show up.

If I carry the breast cancer gene, is my family also at risk?

Family Patterns for BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 Mutations

Having an inherited mutation in the BRCA 1 or BRCA 2 gene means that this person possesses an altered gene from one of your parents. Either parent can be a carrier of the altered gene, and assuming only one of your parents carries the mutated form, your siblings will also have a 50 percent chance of inheriting the mutated gene. If you are a carrier, your children would face the same risk. However, it is important to remember that having the mutated gene only puts someone "at risk" for developing breast cancer. Altered BRCA 1 or BRCA 2 genes, does not mean breast cancer is definitely in your future, but regular screening measures should be taken.

Should I find out whether I carry the breast cancer gene?

Making The Decision To Find Out If You Carry The Breast Cancer Genes

Many people would want to know if they are at risk for getting an illness. The prospect of getting tested for gene mutations for breast cancer is an important decision that should not be treated lightly. Serious thought should be given to how you will handle the test results from your doctor. If knowing would make you more likely to get regular screenings and have a healthy, positive lifestyle to combat the possibility of cancer, then genetic testing might be a good idea for you. However, if testing positive for a mutated gene causes you to become sad, it is important for you to consider this as well. Regardless if you are tested or not, the best recommendation is to follow your doctor's advice and reduce your chances of developing breast cancer.

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Carma Spence-Pothitt