Having a family history of breast cancer increases a woman’s risk for developing breast cancer. Most women who are newly diagnosed with breast cancer do not have a strong family history. But what does it mean when you do?
Understanding your history and having a detailed analysis of your genetics enables me to give you recommendations to “control” these risks. Factors such as age at menarche (first period), age at first pregnancy and length of time spent breast feeding your children to name a few help us determine your risk. Lifestyle considerations involve exercising regularly, eating a healthy diet, maintaining your ideal body weight and moderating your alcohol intake. These help us estimate your risk and form a plan to assess any changes in your breast as early as possible. Your overall medical history is important, too.
Because each of us has a unique genetic makeup, there are also a few specific genetic tests that we do that supplement your history and lifestyle. OncoVue is a genetic-based breast cancer risk test that is relevant to all women. OncoVue combines your genetic information with your family history, medical history and lifestyle factors to give you an overall score, indicating your lifetime risk for developing breast cancer. The results are presented as “standard,” “moderate” and “high-risk.” Because this test gives us specific information about you, we are able to develop a prevention and testing program unique to you. The test is quick and painless – you swish a little mouthwash in order to collect cheek cells to analyze your DNA.
For those patients with a significant risk which involves a hereditary breast or ovarian cancer, we look at BRCA gene analysis. This study looks at the risk for inheriting breast cancer, which involves about 10% of breast and ovarian cancers, specifically concerning mutations in BRCA genes 1 and 2. If you were diagnosed with breast cancer before age 50 and/or ovarian cancer at any age, you may have an inherited risk. If your family history (mother or father’s side) involves a diagnosis of breast cancer before age 50 and/or ovarian cancer at any age, and/or male breast cancer at any age, you could have an inherited risk. The test is done by obtaining a saliva sample. If you test positive, Dr. Schwalke can discuss multiple options with you regarding surveillance or surgery.