Family Ties, Genetics and Breast Health

Are you a mom or do you plan on having children? Do you have or have you survived breast cancer? Has someone in your family been diagnosed with breast cancer? Breast cancer can be hereditary, and you are not alone in wondering what that means for you and your daughter.

The mother-daughter bond is generally considered unshakeable. And while it’s important to know how to foster a great mother-daughter relationship, it’s just as important to understand how mother-daughter genetics can increase the risk of breast cancer.

Granted, family ties and breast cancer aren’t things you’d typically discuss while getting mani-pedis. But, genetics do factor into the discussion of what mothers and daughters with a family history of breast cancer – or who’ve had breast cancer themselves – can do to minimize their risk.

Sharing One Another’s Genes

As the National Cancer Institute reports, mutations in BRCA1 and BRCA2 human genes have been linked to hereditary breast and ovarian cancer. The NCI says the risk for developing both cancers increases when the genes are inherited. A blood sample can reveal this predisposition in both men and women.

It’s important to note that the presence of such BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations does not mean that you will definitely develop breast cancer. It does, however, give you an indication of your risk level. How you manage that risk should be decide in consultation with an oncologist or other qualified health care professional.

The Cristine Meredith Miele Foundation helps clarify, reporting that:

  • roughly 5% to 10% of all breast cancer is linked to a gene mutation.
  • BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes are linked to the most common mutations.
  • these mutations may increase carriers’ lifetime risk to up to 80 percent.
  • other gene changes exist which also increase breast cancer risk.

Family Bonding and Breast Cancer Awareness

The CMM Foundation also reports that the risk for breast cancer is higher among women when close blood relatives have breast cancer. Both maternal and paternal relatives can contribute to that risk – your father’s aunt, your mother’s sister, etc. If your mother, sister or daughter has breast cancer, you’re said to be at higher risk.

Furthermore, the CMM Foundation reports that women’s chances of getting breast cancer increase with age. That is, nearly 2 out of 3 women with invasive breast cancer are 55 or older when their cancer is detected. That makes moms more likely to be diagnosed before their daughters are.

The American Cancer Society says efforts aimed at awareness, detection and treatment have greatly reduced breast cancer rates. Strengthen your mother-daughter bond and family ties by making a date to research breast cancer, develop awareness and reduce your risk together.

Protecting Your Relationship and Your Breasts

While breast cancer isn’t the most fun-loving topic, you can take a lighter, mother-daughter approach to learning more about it. In the process, you’ll learn to support and encourage one another. You’ll also share in the task of minimizing the impact breast cancer has on your lives.

A few ways you can do that include:

  • Scheduling mother-daughter mammograms
  • Researching your family tree and its medical history
  • Get BRCA1 and BRCA2 blood testing
  • Motivating each other to eat right, exercise and live well
  • Making and selling baked goods to benefit cancer research
  • Participating in fundraising events as a mother-daughter team

Additionally, take these individual steps to reduce your breast cancer risk:

  • Perform monthly self breast exams
  • Pay attention to your breasts and underarm area
  • Have suspicious lumps evaluated by a professional
  • Report changes in breast color, texture or size to a doctor
  • Schedule annual clinical breast exams with a gynecologist
  • Schedule annual mammograms

If you have a family history of breast cancer and/or have tested positive for breast cancer gene mutations, use that information as even more incentive to take your breast health – and your family’s – seriously. If you or someone in your family has breast implants, read more on ImplantInfo about breast cancer detection with implants.

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