Personal Stories, Headlines & Helpful Information
By: Sean Tuffnell
While one in eight women will be diagnosed at some point in their lifetime, no one ever really thinks it will be them – even when it has touched their family.
For Felicia Mahone, breast cancer seemed to run in her family. Her mom died from breast cancer. As if that wasn’t devastating enough, breast cancer came for her Aunt Harriet, Aunt Gwen, her Cousin Ursula and Cousin Janice. It took them, too.
Then, breast cancer came for Felicia when she was just 27. With her family history, she never thought she was immune to breast cancer, but she hoped she was the lucky one in the family. Instead, she was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer, a very aggressive and hard to treat type of this disease.
A family history of certain types of cancer can increase your risk of breast cancer. This increased risk may be due to genetic factors, shared lifestyle factors or other family traits. A woman who has a first-degree female relative with breast cancer has almost twice the risk of a woman without this family history. If she has more than one first-degree female relative with a history of breast cancer, her risk is about three to four times higher.
When they were diagnosed and with what type is also important. In general, the younger the relative was when she was diagnosed, the greater a woman's chance of getting breast cancer. For example, a woman whose mother was diagnosed with breast cancer before age 40 has about twice the risk of a woman without this family history. For a woman whose mother was diagnosed at an older age, the increase in risk isn’t as high. A history of breast cancer in a close male relative (father, brother or uncle) also increases your risk of breast cancer.
A family history of other cancers, such as prostate cancer, may also increase one’s risk, especially if the prostate cancer was found at a young age.
While a family history of breast cancer does increase one’s risk, it is important to remember that most women with breast cancer don't have a family history of the disease. Only about 13 percent of women diagnosed have a first-degree female relative (mother, sister or daughter) with breast cancer.
My Family Health History Tool
Komen’s online “My Family Health History Tool” is simple to fill out and makes it easy for you to record and organize your family health history. This tool helps you gather information that will be useful for you and your doctor.
Talking with your health care provider about other risk factors for breast cancer can help you learn about your risk even if you don't have information on your family medical history. If you have a family history of breast or other type of cancer, your health care provider can help you understand how this impacts your risk of breast cancer. Learn about family history risk factors.
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