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How likely am I to get breast cancer if my mother has it?

Cancer Breast Cancer

Hi Drs, I am 27 years old this year and my mother has passed away from breast cancer when I was young. What are the chances of me getting breast cancer? What can be done as a preventive measure, and how much can I trust the results? Thanks!

DOCTOR’S ANSWER (2)

This depends on a number of factors. Firstly, is your mother is the only relation with breast cancer or are there more relatives with breast or ovarian cancers?

It also depends on the age that your mother got cancer. If your mother got cancer when she was less than 45 years old and she is the only one in the extended family with cancer then your risk is double compared to someone without a cancer in the family.

The incidence of breast cancer in Singapore is currently 1 in 14 women. If your mother got cancer when she was above 45 years of age and no other family members are affected, your risk will be lower.

If more than 2 immediate family members have breast cancer and mother got cancer at age less than 45 years of age, then the worry is if you carry the abnormal cancer gene, the BRCA genes. Someone who carries the gene than has a lifetime risk ranging between 40-80 % of getting breast cancer.

Cancer can also be triggerred by lifestyle habits such as smoking and increased alcohol intake.

0 563 views 24 Jul 2018

The causes of cancer are multi-factorial. For example, the following factors all play a role:

  • Family history/genetics
  • Lifestyle factors such as diet and exercise
  • Body weight
  • Smoking and alcohol
  • Sleep habits
  • Exposure to environmental cancer-causing chemicals 

The lifetime risk of getting breast cancer in a woman is about 1 in 8. If you have a mom who had breast cancer before the age of 50, the risk is approximately doubled, especially if you inherited a certain gene mutation on BRCA1 and BRCA2.

You can also use the National Cancer Institute’s Breast Cancer Risk Assessment Tool to find out your risk of breast cancer.

That said, women who test positive for BRCA mutations are usually followed up closely by their doctors with screening tools like breast MRI, and may even choose to prophylactically remove their breasts (a la Angelina Jolie) to completely prevent the risk of developing breast cancer.  

These screening measures can cut the risk of developing cancer to below that of an average woman.

The next step for you to take should be to ask your doctor if you should be tested for the BRCA gene, as well as to ask him for recommendations about when to get screened.

Here are some other measures you can take to reduce your risk of breast cancer:

Hope that helps!

0 678 views 23 May 2018
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