If a few of your family members have had breast cancer, you may be wondering if it was an inherited condition. Breast cancer can be caused by gene mutations: specifically, in the genes BRCA1 and BRCA2. These genes usually regulate the cycle of cell division, but gene mutations can cause cells to divide and grow into tumors. In fact, BRCA1 mutations not only cause breast cancer, they can raise the risk of other cancers. If you think you are predisposed to breast cancer, here are some steps you can take.
Have Genetic Testing Done
Lots of people are having genetic testing done for fun reasons, like seeing where their ancestors came from. However, genetic tests—like 23andMe—can actually tell you whether or not you are predisposed to certain conditions. While there are hundreds of BRCA mutations, 23andMe tests for three common mutations. Ask your primary care physician about more comprehensive tests. If you test positive for these mutations, then you can start doing things to lower your risk.
Improve Your Lifestyle
You can't change your genes, but you can change your lifestyle. For instance, those who drink alcohol and smoke tend to be at a higher risk for breast cancer. If you can limit these habits, then you may lower your risk. Physical activity can do wonders for your body; maintain your weight to lower your risk. If you are going through menopause, consider using the lightest doses for hormone therapies. Hormone therapies can increase the risk of breast cancer if you take them for more than a few years.
Reach Out to BRCA Organizations for the Best Research and Treatments
Ever hear of the Jon Gray Foundation? This foundation focuses on BRCA-related cancer. If you know you have this gene, contact centers like this one. They have up-to-date research and information on treatments that could help should you develop cancer.
Consider a Prophylactic Mastectomy
This isn't a decision to take lightly. However, if many people in your family have breast cancer and you have a BRCA mutation, it is worth a thought. In fact, breastcancer.org says that this surgery can reduce the risk of breast cancer by as much as 95% in women with BRCA mutations. Some women aren't comfortable going flat, so patients do have the option of having a breast reconstruction surgery after.
Although it can be overwhelming to get a diagnosis of a gene mutation, this information can help you take charge of your life, reduce your risk, and get the help you need.