Genetic Counseling

GENETICS and BREAST CANCER

About 5% to 10% of all breast cancers are thought to be hereditary, brought on by abnormal genes passed down from a parent. In some cases, those who carry such abnormalities may be given the wrong set of genetic instructions, leading to faulty cell growth. In essence, if there is an error in a gene, that same mistake will replicate and appear in all the cells that contain the same gene.

BRCA 1 AND BRCA 2 GENES

Most inherited cases of breast cancer are associated with two abnormal genes; BRCA1 (BReast CAncer gene one) and BRCA2 (BReast CAncer gene two). Therefore, any man or woman with a strong family history of breast or ovarian cancer should be tested for the presence of the BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 genes. Both of these genes are responsible for producing tumor suppressing proteins, which repair damaged DNA and ensures the proper functionality of the cells. If it is found that either of those two genes are mutated, DNA may not be repaired properly which can in turn lead to the development of cancer.

While less than 10% of women with breast cancer are actual carriers of this gene, those that do have up to an 80% risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer during their lifetime. They also have an increased risk of developing ovarian, colon, pancreatic, and thyroid cancers, as well as melanoma. Awareness is key. Knowing your predisposition to developing breast cancer can ultimately save one's life.

A discussion with one of our breast cancer specialist can help you determine whether or not you should be tested for the mutation and what your treatment options are, should you be a carrier.

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