Each year close to 200,000 women in the United States are diagnosed with breast cancer. Family history is known to be a very important risk factor for the development of breast cancer. Approximately one-third of patients with newly diagnosed breast cancer have a family history, and it is estimated that 5 to 10 percent of all breast cancers are caused by a known mutation in a breast cancer susceptibility gene.
Two such genes are BRCA1 and BRCA2. In order to determine whether an individual has an inherited genetic predisposition to the development of breast cancer or ovarian cancer, we are able to offer a blood test to look for the mutation in specific genes. The presence of a mutation in BRCA1 or BRCA2 could increase a woman's risk of developing breast cancer in her lifetime by close to ten-fold.
At Beaumont, individuals with a family history of breast or ovarian cancer have the option of genetic counseling and testing. Certain aspects of the family history serve as clues to the possibility of inherited breast cancer susceptibility, including:
- two or more family members with breast cancer at an early age (under age 50)
- breast cancer at or under the age of 45 years (with or without family history of cancer)
- three or more relatives with breast cancer (at any age) on the same side of the family
- ovarian cancer at any age
- bilateral breast cancer (cancer in both breasts)
- male breast cancer (at any age)
- pancreatic cancer
- individuals from certain ethnic groups are also known to have a higher likelihood of having a BRCA mutation (e.g. Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry (Eastern European), Icelandic, French Canadian)