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Breast Cancer & Family History

  • Category: Cancer Care
  • Posted On:
  • Written By: John Colfry, M.D.

Understanding Breast Cancer

Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer in women. According to the Center for Disease Control, about 7 percent of women will get breast cancer by age 70 and about 1 percent will get ovarian cancer by the age of 70. Most breast and ovarian cancers occur in women after the age of 50. Family health history is an important factor affecting a woman’s risk for developing breast and ovarian cancer.

Every woman should be aware of these cancers in her family. In general, the more close relatives who have had breast or ovarian cancer, and the earlier their ages of diagnosis, the greater a woman’s risk.

Touro’s Cancer Program offers comprehensive care with a fully integrated, multidisciplinary approach. Key medical teams collaborate closely to ensure the well-being of each patient, incluindg: breast imaging, breast surgical oncology, breast reconstruction surgery, medical oncology, radiation oncology, breast health navigators, physical therapy, and other specalists.

Click here to view a vide on Touro’s YouTube Channel about breast cancer risks, statistics and treatment.

Family history & breast cancer risk

  • 90% of breast cancer is due to random environmental events.
  • 10% of breast cancer is inheritable (passed down from previous generations)
  • If one first-degree female relative (sister, mother, daughter) is diagnosed with breast cancer, the risk is doubled
  • If two first-degree relatives have been diagnosed, risk is increased three-fold
  • In some cases, a strong family history of breast cancer is linked to having an abnormal gene associated with a high risk of breast cancer
  • Such as the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene
  • In other cases, an abnormal CHEK2 gene may play a role in developing breast cancer

What can women do to reduce the risk?

  • Certain lifestyle choices to reduce your risk, such as:
    • Maintaining a healthy weight
    • Exercising regularly
    • Limiting alcohol intake
    • Not smoking or quitting if you do smoke
    • Eating nutritious food
  • Regular screenings can help detect the cancer early, making it easier to treat
    • Develop a screening plan with a doctor
    • Types of screenings include:
      • Monthly self-breast exam
      • Yearly breast exam by your doctor or nurse practitioner
      • Mammogram every year starting at age 40

Click here to take our online breast cancer risk assessment.

What are the genes that can cause hereditary breast cancer?

  • The most common cause of hereditary breast cancer is an inherited mutation in the BRCA1and BRCA2 genes
    • In normal cells, these genes help prevent cancer by making proteins that keep the cells from growing abnormally
    • If you have inherited a mutated copy of either gene from a parent, you have a high risk of developing breast cancer during your lifetime
  • Other gene mutations can also lead to inherited breast cancers
    • These gene mutations are rare and often do not increase the risk of breast cancer as much as the BRCAgenes
    • They are not frequent causes of inherited breast cancer
    • These other gene mutations may include: ATM, TP53, CHEK2, PTEN, CDH1, STK1, PALB2.

Speak with your doctor about your individual risk factors and when you should begin screening for breast cancer.

John Colfry, M.D. is a Breast Surgical Oncologist at Touro Infirmary. Dr. Colfry earned his BS from Washington and Lee University and his MD from Louisiana State Univeristy Health Sciences Center in Shreveport, LA. He completed his general surgery internship and residency at Atlanta Medical Center.  Dr. Colfry completed his Breast Surgical Oncology Fellowship from the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. He is a native New Orleanian and is part of a multidisciplinary oncology team at Touro’s Crescent City Physicians, Inc.