Checking your breasts
Breast Cancer Risk
Breast cancer is the most common cancer affecting women in the UK, affecting approximately 1 in 8 women in their lifetime.
If a few of your family members have been diagnosed with breast cancer in the past you may be worried that you are likely to develop it at some point in your life. However this is not always the case as most breast cancers are not inherited and are not likely to affect the lifetime risk of people in your family, and so does not necessarily mean that you will be affected.
Yet you should still be aware that the risk of developing breast cancer is increased if you have a significant history of breast cancer in your family. The likelihood of developing breast cancer is increased if you have one or more of the following in your family:
A mother or sister diagnosed with breast cancer before the age of 40
2 close relatives from the same side of the family who have had breast cancer – with one being a mother, sister or daughter
3 close relatives diagnosed with breast cancer at any point in their life
A father or brother diagnosed with breast cancer at any point in their life
A mother or sister diagnosed with breast cancer of both breasts – the first cancer diagnosed before the age of 50
1 close relative with ovarian cancer and 1 with breast cancer, diagnosed at any age – with at least one being a mother, sister or daughter
Risk levels are classed into three categories to help you determine your risk of developing breast cancer:
This simply means you are at the same risk of developing breast cancer as other women in the general population who have no breast cancer occurrences in their family.
This means that there have been numerous occurrences of breast cancer amongst women in your family often at older ages but with no apparent pattern. If you are considered at moderate risk this indicates that you have a higher than average risk of developing the disease, according to NICE women in this category have a 1 in 6 chance of developing breast cancer. However currently there are no genetic tests available to confirm this.
You are considered high risk also called increased risk or hereditary breast cancer if breast cancer has affected a significant amount of close family members over many generations i.e. grandmother, mother and daughter who have typically been diagnosed with breast cancer or other cancers linked to breast cancer such as ovarian cancer at a younger than average age.
Women in this category are not 100% certain to be affected by breast cancer in their life time it means they are at a higher risk than other women.
This could be because of an altered gene type being carried on through family generations such as a mutation to the BRCA1 gene. Many women opt to take a genetic test to identify whether or not they have the altered breast cancer gene to determine their risk of developing breast cancer.