Learning About Your Family Background
Whether you and/or some of your family members have had breast cancer, you may be interested in the possibility of genetic testing. The best way to get started is to learn more about your family history on both your mother’s and your father’s side. An abnormal gene that increases breast cancer risk is more likely to run in your family if:
- Many women in your family have had breast and/or ovarian cancer, particularly at a younger age than these cancers typically develop (before age 50).
- Some women in your family have had cancer involving both breasts.
- There is both breast and ovarian cancer in your family.
- Men in your family have had breast cancer.
- There is breast cancer in your family and either male relatives on the same side of the family have had prostate cancer at a young age, or male or female relatives on the same side of the family have had gastrointestinal cancers, such as cancer of the pancreas, gall bladder, or stomach.
- Your family is of Ashkenazi (Eastern European) Jewish descent.
- More than two people in your family have cancer.
If any of these are true for either side of your family, you may be a candidate for genetic testing. You may want to meet with a genetic counselor, a medical professional specially trained to understand and provide information about genetics and disease. To find a genetic counselor who specializes in family-related cancer risk, talk to your doctor or check with the hospitals and cancer centers in your area. You also can contact the Iranian Breast Cancer Research Center www.ibrcrc.ir
The genetic counselor will work with you to build a family tree that shows all of the cases of breast, ovarian, and other types of cancer in your family, along with the ages at which they occurred. This visual history can help you determine whether or not genetic testing makes sense for you. Before you can build this family tree, however, you may need to do some research.