Breast cancer is common – 1 in 8 Australian women will be diagnosed in their lifetime. We all know someone – a sister, mother, aunt, friend – who’s experienced this disease, and yes men can get breast cancer too (though it is rare).
For most people, there is no one cause for their breast cancer; many things can contribute to breast cancer risk:
For some, carrying a particular gene variant can significantly increase breast cancer risk. Approximately 5-10% of breast cancer diagnoses are due to a genetic predisposition. Increased risk gene variants can be carried and passed on to their children by both males and females. Sometimes, family history can give clues that there may be a gene variant in the family:
However, family history is not always a good way to predict whether there’s a gene variant in the family. That’s because not everyone who carries a gene variant will develop cancer, or the family may be small or disconnected, or the gene variant may be running down the male line (in whom the risk of breast cancer is less).
Some people who have a strong family history can access funded genetic testing through Medicare, but many others miss out. Eugene’s proactive cancer risk test allows anyone, family history or not, to learn about their genes and make informed health choices. For most people, the results will show they don’t carry an increased risk gene variant and provide reassurance. For the small number who do learn they have an increased genetic risk, they can put in place additional screening or other measures to reduce this risk and take control of their health.
This breast cancer awareness month, uncover what’s in your genes and get to know yourself – it could save your life.
Stephanie is a genetic counsellor who joined Eugene in September 2019. Prior to working at Eugene, Stephanie has had 5 years clinical experience in both the public and private sector, in WA, Tas and Vic. She has a background in general and prenatal genetics, but has spent most of her time working in familial cancer, supporting people and families to understand their inherited cancer risk often in the context of a recent cancer diagnosis.
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