Family History and Breast Cancer: An Essential Awareness

Breast Cancer

In our family, we often hear comments like, “You have your mother’s eyes” or “You look just like your grandmother.” Family resemblance often brings a sense of nostalgia and comfort, but have you considered the less visible aspects we inherit from our families? One of these aspects is the risk of lethal diseases such as breast cancer.

All hope is not lost. The encouraging news is that understanding your family’s cancer history can be a crucial step in preventing breast cancer. Irrespective of gender, recognising your risk and knowing how to protect yourself is of utmost importance.

Demystifying Breast Cancer

Breast cancer is a topic of frequent discussion. We see the pink ribbons and participate in walks to support breast cancer research, but do we truly comprehend what breast cancer is and why it affects so many individuals?

Breast cancer is a disease in which cells in the breast begin to grow uncontrollably. It can manifest in various ways, with common symptoms including breast or underarm lumps, localised swelling, and discomfort. When left untreated, breast cancer can spread to other parts of the body, making treatment more challenging.

The most concerning fact regarding breast cancer is that it ranks as the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States. Latest statistics from the CDC reveal that over 264,000 women were diagnosed with breast cancer, and more than 42,000 lost their lives to it. Among these women, some had a family history of breast cancer.

Breast Cancer and Your Family Tree

Most cases of breast cancer occur in women aged 50 or older. However, when women under 45 receive a diagnosis, it is often due to a shared factor: family history of the disease. Approximately 5-10% of breast cancers are hereditary, meaning that the risk of getting breast cancer is passed down through families.

If you have family members who have been diagnosed with breast cancer, your own risk of developing the disease may be elevated. This risk not only pertains to your maternal lineage, but also your paternal family.

It’s Not Just a Women’s Issue: Men and Breast Cancer

A common misconception is that breast cancer exclusively affects women. Although less common, men can also be diagnosed with breast cancer. In the United States, about 1 in every 100 breast cancer cases is found in a man. This means that contrary to popular understanding, men are not exempt from this deadly disease. Men must also take into account their family history of breast cancer and assess their potential risk.

Understanding Your Family History – A Potential Lifesaver

If you’re uncertain about your family’s history of breast cancer, you can start by having open conversations with your relatives. By discussing your family’s cancer history on both your maternal and paternal sides, you can gain valuable insights into your risk and share potentially life-saving information with your family.

If your family history suggests that you might have a higher risk, or if you’re unsure about your family history, consult your healthcare provider. They may refer you for genetic counselling, which might include genetic testing to identify mutations that could lead to cancer.

These experts can assist you in understanding what your family history means for your cancer risk, help determine if genetic testing is appropriate, and provide guidance on addressing an elevated risk.

In conclusion, comprehending your family’s health history is an invaluable tool in averting the perils of breast cancer. By taking proactive steps and understanding your risk, you can protect yourself and your loved ones from this formidable disease. Let’s rewrite our family histories with narratives of strength, resilience, and early detection.

Initiate a conversation with your healthcare provider about your family’s cancer history to determine when you should commence breast cancer screenings.