Healthy breast cancer susceptibility genes, also known as BRCA-1 and BRCA-2, help prevent breast cancer from developing. A small number of women carry a mutation, or defect, of either of these genes, which greatly increases the risk of developing breast cancer, as well as ovarian cancer.
Because of the high volume of women treated at our high-risk clinic, our breast care experts have the experience and sensitivity to manage any high-risk breast cancer concerns.
Breast cancer gene statistics
While breast cancer is often not a hereditary condition, the mutation of BRCA-1 or BRCA-2 does run in families.
- About 5 to 10 percent of women with breast cancer have BRCA-1 or BRCA-2 mutations.
- Between 1 in 400 and 1 in 800 women in the U.S. are BRCA-1 or BRCA-2 carriers.
- Men who carry a BRCA gene mutation have an increased risk of developing both breast and prostate cancer, as well as other types of cancer.
You may carry this genetic mutation if any of the following characteristics apply to you:
- You developed breast cancer before age 50
- Your mother, sister, or daughter developed breast or ovarian cancer before age 50
- Your mother, sister, or daughter developed ovarian cancer
- Any female blood relative developed both breast and ovarian cancer
- You or any female blood relative developed breast cancer in both breasts
- You are of Ashkenazi Jewish descent
- Any male blood relative developed breast cancer
What should I do if I have a family history of breast cancer?
If you have a family history of breast cancer, you can consider taking a genetic test to determine if you carry the BRCA-1 or BRCA-2 genetic mutations. If you do test positive for the BRCA mutation, you can consider the following options:
- Close monitoring – You can closely monitor your breast health with frequent digital mammograms, breast MRI, and clinical breast exams every 6 months to detect abnormalities as early as possible
- Prophylactic surgery – You can choose to have one or both of your breasts and/or your ovaries surgically removed to greatly reduce your chances of developing cancer.
- Lifestyle choices – Make healthy lifestyle choices to lower your risk of developing cancer. These choices include maintaining a healthy weight and nutritious, low-fat diet, exercising, and limiting alcohol intake.
- Chemo prevention – Your doctor may recommend taking tamoxifen to reduce your risk of breast cancer.