Breast cancer ranks among the top 4 most commonly diagnosed cancers in the US, alongside prostate, lung and colon. However, did you know that when it comes down to breast cancer itself, it is not just environmental factors that increase your risk of developing this serious health condition? Studies have proven that if your mother or other close relatives have developed or develop breast cancer, then the chance of you developing breast cancer also increases. This article will look at why and how this is the case, as well as a brief overview of how you can support a family member who is currently suffering from breast cancer.
Why is family history important?
In terms of the statistics, when it comes to the development of breast cancer through the passing on of a mutated gene, the numbers are very low (5-10% of all cases). The genes thought to be of concern and of risk to your breast health are the BRCA1/2 genes, in a mutated form. These genes are thought to contribute to the development of breast cancer and cause further cell mutation to occur.
Although these numbers seem low, the percentage represents the fact that some people will be at an increased risk, and knowing whether you fall into that group can be difficult and obscure. Being a carrier of the mutated gene will not necessarily cause breast cancer in you or your children, however the characteristics do have the ability to become active or be passed on. Genetic testing may be able to give you an indication of whether you are a carrier of the gene and allow you to make further considerations about personal precautionary choices and the decisions of having children, who may or may not also have an increased risk of developing breast cancer themselves.
How do you know if you are at a higher risk?
If older members of your family have developed the disease and there is a family history of breast cancer within your family tree, you should consider the options. Regular screenings such as clinical and self-conducted breast exams and mammography are commonly carried out and easy to arrange. Speak to your doctor and raise your concerns, they will be able to advise the best precautionary procedures.
How to support family members suffering from breast cancer?
Being patient, supportive and compassionate to your loved ones is an essential response when they have been diagnosed or are being treated for cancer. Always be sensitive to their needs and situation. Having a support system of people they can rely on, can be an incredibly powerful tool in the recovery and treatment of breast cancer. Always be positive and encouraging – your presence is valuable to their well-being.
How can I reduce my risk of developing breast cancer?
If you have a family history or know that you have a higher risk of developing breast cancer, there are many simply lifestyle changes that you can make to improve your health, immune system and lower your chances of developing the disease. These suggestions include the reduction of alcohol consumption and giving up smoking. Eating a healthy diet that is rich in antioxidants and exercising regularly are also key areas that will aid the maintenance of a strong physical body and immune system – your body is only as strong as you allow it to be.