Understanding the Important Facts About Breast Cancer
According to Statistics, some women with breast cancer have a high 80 percent lifetime risk of breast cancer.
What is the Cause of Breast Cancer?
The exact cause of breast cancer is not fully understood. But studies tell us that it begins from the abnormal growth of some cells in the breast. These abnormal cells multiply faster than healthy cells to the extent that a lump or mass forms.
Cancer cells may first appear in different parts of the breast — in the milk-producing ducts, in the lobules or glandular tissue, or in other breast cells. A serious problem that may occur is the spread or metastasis of the cancer cells, not just all over the breast area, but even into the lymph nodes and other body organs.
Who are at Risk of Breast Cancer?
Anyone that possesses the following traits has an increased risk of breast cancer. However, it is noted that some women still develop breast cancer without having these risk factors.
- Women are more at risk than men
- Being obese
- Older women are at a higher risk than younger women
- A person with breast cancer in one breast has an increased risk of having breast cancer on the other
- A person with family members or close relatives that have breast cancer particularly at a young age
- Had genetic mutations BRCA1 or BRCA2
- Exposed the chest to radiation during childhood or young adulthood
- Started menstruation before 12 years old
- Experienced menopause at an older age
- Gave birth to her first child at 35 years old
- Has never given birth
- Receives a combination of estrogen and progesterone for hormone therapy
- Drinks alcohol
Most of the breast cancer patients did not inherit this condition. Statistics tells us that only 5 to 10 percent of patients got their breast cancer via inherited genetic mutation.
BRCA1 and BRCA2 are the most prevalent gene mutations associated with breast cancer. In addition, both gene mutations increase a woman’s risk of having ovarian cancer or other cancers.
In normal individuals, the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes actually produce proteins that are capable of controlling the abnormal growth of cells and in the process prevent cancer growth. If ever the genes mutate, they cannot perform their function of cancer prevention very well.
The risk of breast cancer for certain women with BRCA1 mutation is 80 percent. But on average, it is 55 to 65 percent. The risk of breast cancer for certain women with BRCA2 mutation is roughly 45 percent.
Most breast cancers that are associated with BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations appear in younger women. In addition, women who have cancer in both breasts are often carrying these mutations as well.
Anyone can be affected by BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes mutation, but compared to other racial groups in the U.S, it is the Jewish people having Easter European background who are most commonly affected.
Some men may also be affected by these genes mutation. Those men are more at risk of having cancer — breast cancer, prostate cancer or any other type of cancer.
Who Needs Genetic Testing?
Individuals with a family history of cancer may have a genetic testing done. The test uses a person’s saliva or blood sample to identify the presence of an inherited BRCA or other genes mutation.
Talking with a doctor will help you decide whether you need this testing or not. The doctor can refer a genetic counselor to help you understand the testing options in more detail.
Under the Affordable Care Act, the genetic counseling and testing are covered by insurance under preventive service for people who are at high risk. It is best that you inquire from your insurance company whether they cover BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutation testing prior to having the procedure.
BRCA1 and BRCA2: Cancer Risk and Genetic Testing, National Cancer Institute
Breast Cancer, Mayo Clinic
Breast Cancer, American Cancer Society
Photo Source: By Federal Government [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons