If you have had a family member diagnosed with breast cancer, unfortunately it increases your risk of developing the disease as well. Particularly if your family member is a first degree relative, (sister, mother or daughter) your risk is then doubled. If you have a brother or father diagnosed with breast cancer, your risk is increased, though by how much is unknown.
Why Does This Increase My Risk?
There are two main reasons why family history increases your risk of developing breast cancer: lifestyle and genetics. If multiple people in a family develop breast cancer it can be due to a shared lifestyle. Unhealthy diets and lack of exercise increase your risk of developing cancer, so overweight family members share an increased possibility. Alcoholism and smoking are other big risk factors that are often shared family habits.
Genetics are the other reason why a family history of breast cancer can make you more susceptible to developing cancer. Genes can be altered, or mutated, as they pass down through generations and some of these gene mutations have been linked to breast cancer (ex. BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes). Normally, these genes help prevent cancer by making the proteins that keep the body from growing abnormal cells. When altered, they stop doing their job and let the body to create abnormal cells, allowing cancer to form.
If you have a family history of breast cancer, a good place to start is with your daily habits. Start with making sure you have a healthy diet and are getting plenty of exercise to limit your risks. Limit your alcohol intake and if you are a smoker, talk to your doctor about getting help with quitting. If your risk is due to genetics, your physician may also recommend hormonal therapy medications to reduce your risk.
Be Smart and Get Regular Screenings
All women (regardless of family history) should perform a monthly breast self-exam as well as regular clinical screening for breast cancer. Though if you do have a family history of breast cancer, you will need screenings more often, and possibly earlier in life. Make sure you get a clinical breast exam every 6-12 months and a mammogram every year (likely starting between 30 and 40 years depending on how closely related your diagnosed family member is).
At The Breast Center of Maple Grove, we are here to make your mammogram as easy and comfortable as possible. Call 763-398-6370 today to schedule an appointment. We are open Monday and Wednesday through Friday, from 7:00 am to 5:00 pm and have extended hours of 7:00 am to 8:00 pm on Tuesdays so you can easily fit a visit into your busy schedule.