It’s in the Genes: Learn the Latest on Genetics and Breast Cancer
Wednesday, October 26
6:30 p.m. | FREE
Adventist Bolingbrook Hospital
Join Dr. Donald Sweet as he discusses breast cancer risk factors and susceptibility, recommendations for women who are at risk for hereditary breast cancer, and the impact of genetic testing. A risk assessment screening is included in the program.
To learn more or to register, call 866-533-7968.
Predicting your chance for developing breast cancer seems futuristic, but for some women, the future is now and it’s lifesaving. For a select group of breast cancer patients, the cause can be traced to inherited genetic mutation called the BRCA 1 and 2 (pronounced “bra-ca”). Knowing whether you’re at risk for having the mutation can help you and your physician create a prevention strategy specifically for you.
“Everyone has the BRCA genes, but not everyone carries the harmful mutation that increases the risk for breast and ovarian cancers,” explains Donald Sweet, Medical Director of Cancer Services on staff at Adventist Bolingbrook Hospital. Men can also have this mutation. For them, it means an increased risk for colon and prostate cancer, as well as an increase in the risk for breast cancer.
Since genetically determined breast cancer is relatively rare, most women won’t need to worry about whether they are carriers of the BRCA mutation. But, according to Dr. Sweet, there are some factors to be aware of:
• Having a mother or sister who was diagnosed with breast or ovarian cancer before age 50.
• Having Ashkenazi (Eastern European) Jewish heritage.
• Having family members who had more than one cancer develop at the same time.
If one or both of your parents carried the BRCA mutation, chances are higher that you inherited it as well. However, having the mutation doesn’t mean you will definitely develop breast cancer.
Genetic counseling helps determine your risk for breast cancer
Talking to a genetic counselor – a health care professional trained in genetics and cancer – if you meet one or more of the criteria for carrying the BRCA mutation can help you understand your risk and your options.
“During genetic counseling, we go into great detail about your family history on your mother and father’s side, especially where breast and ovarian cancers are concerned,” says Dr. Sweet. “Gathering that information allows us to calculate your risk for having the genetic mutation.”
If your genetic counselor thinks your risk is 10 percent or more, a blood test may be ordered to pinpoint whether you are carrying the BRCA mutation. Then, if you do have the BRCA mutation, your doctor will explain your personal risk for breast and ovarian cancers.
Once your risk has been assessed you have a few options:
• Monitoring your breast tissue using mammography or MRI.
• Drug therapy (also called chemoprevention) with drugs like tamoxifen.
• Prophylactic mastectomy (removal of the breasts as a preventive measure).
“Even though a woman may have up to a 50 percent risk of developing breast cancer, there is still a chance she may never develop it. That’s why we take time to talk to women about options and make sure they’re making an informed decision about prevention,” says Dr. Sweet.
What’s best for you depends on your stress level, whether you can handle the emotional impact of mastectomy and your ability to cope with uncertainty. “It’s not at all easy to find out you’re at a higher risk for cancer,” Dr. Sweet says. “I always recommend genetic counseling before genetic testing. If counseling shows you’re only at a 2 percent higher risk, you may not want to go through genetic testing.”
What every woman can do to decrease her breast cancer risk
“A family history doesn’t always mean you’re going to be BRCA positive,” cautions Dr. Sweet. Because 11–12 percent of all women will develop breast cancer, there’s a chance of developing the disease regardless of whether you have a genetic predisposition.
All women can help reduce their risk for breast cancer by:
• Eating a low-fat diet.
• Getting 30 minutes of exercise 3-5 days per week
• Maintaining a healthy weight.
• Avoiding hormone replacement therapy.
• Getting regular mammograms starting at age 40.
If you think you might be at risk for carrying the BRCA mutation, talk with a qualified genetic counselor like the kind on staff with Adventist Midwest Health. “We help put your risk in perspective and help you make the decision that’s right for you,” says Dr. Sweet.
You don’t have to wait to get screened for breast cancer. Call 630-856-7061 today to schedule your next-day mammogram through Adventist Midwest Health.