Breast cancer now occurs in 1 in 8 women, while ovarian cancer occurs in about 1 in 75 women. Most of these cancers are not inherited, and occur randomly, but we now know that approx. 5-10% of all breast cancers are inherited. When breast cancer is inherited it may be caused by a mutation (fault) in one of the breast/ovarian genes, known as BRCA 1&2, or in a different breast cancer associated gene.
Families with BRCA 1&2 mutations generally have one of more of the following characteristics:
- Several close relatives with breast cancer
- Breast cancer diagnosed before the age of 50
- Bilateral breast cancer (cancer in both breasts)
- Ovarian cancer
- Increased frequency of prostate and pancreatic cancer
- Male breast cancer
- Ashkenazi (Eastern European) Jewish Ancestry.
It is important to be aware that hereditary breast or ovarian cancer can pass through the maternal (mother’s) or paternal (father’s) side of the family. If you recognise any of the above features in your own family history, and would like to make an appointment to discuss possible genetic testing and counselling then click here to make an appointment. Further information about genetic testing can also be found on the GeneHealth UK website by clicking here. Genetic testing, which is normally a simple blood or saliva sample, includes a pre-test and post-test consultation with a genetic counsellor to help explain the issues regarding the test itself, and subsequent management decisions once the test result is available.