Angelina Jolie’s mother died at age 56 after a 10-year battle with breast cancer. After testing positive for the BRCA mutation, Jolie decided to have a prophylactic mastectomy.
BRCA stands for Breast Cancer Susceptibility Gene. There are two types of classification for the gene, namely BRCA1 and BRCA2. All of us — both men and women — have them. These are tumor-suppressor genes that help keep the cell’s genetic material stable and prevent uncontrolled cell growth. BRCA gene mutations have been linked to both breast and ovarian cancer at an early age. Breast cancer risk is increased from a 12% lifetime risk for women in the general population, to 60% in those with this mutated gene.
Who are at risk of a BRCA mutation?
A family history of cancer can suggest increased risk. For women, these patterns include:
- Having a male relative with breast cancer.
- Having a mother, daughter, or sister with bilateral breast cancer.
- Having 2 first-degree relatives: mother, daughter, or sister who had breast cancer at or before age 50.
- Having at least 3 first- or second-degree relatives, including grandmothers and aunts, diagnosed with breast cancer at any age, or at least 2 relatives with ovarian cancer.
- Having first- and second-degree relatives with breast or ovarian cancer, particularly if a relative has had both breast and ovarian cancer, regardless of the age at diagnosis.
Having a risk of genetic mutation doesn’t mean that you have a BRCA mutation. Also, having a BRCA mutation doesn’t mean that you will definitely get cancer. If you do find out that you have it, what you do with this information remains a personal decision and there are several choices available to you.
If you would like to discuss your options regarding breast health, please an appointment at My Sexual Health with Sr Laurenza (012 809 6048)
If you think you are at an increased risk of cancer and want to do genetic testing, please contact Prof Greta Dreyer (012 325 0309).