By Dr. Lisa Sheppard MD
That is a very interesting question and one that I am asked often. Women are often confused by what it means to have a family history of breast or ovarian cancer. Doctors usually look only at very close blood relatives — your mother, sisters and daughters — when determining your family history of these diseases.
If one or more of these relatives has had breast or ovarian cancer, your own risk is significantly increased. If a grandmother, aunt or cousin has been diagnosed with the disease, however, your personal risk is usually not significantly changed, unless many of these “secondary” relatives have had the disease.
In many cases where breast cancer seems to run in families, a mutation in specific genes, called BRCA1 and BRCA2, may be contributing to the cancer. Genetic tests are available to see if a woman carries this mutation. It is also possible to test for the faulty TP53 gene and PTEN gene, which are much rarer than BRCA mutations, but can increase the risk of breast cancer.
It is important to know if you are a carrier of one of the genes because today there are many excellent treatment options to reduce the risk of cancer. However, genetic testing is a complex area. Call PINK Breast Center to schedule your Mammogram now and ask for more information about it.
We have 2 NJ Breast Clinics for your convenience: Paterson at 973-977-6662, or Flemington at 908-284-2300.