Genetics and Your Breast Health

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Every cell in your body contains genes. Sometimes, people are born with an error in one of these genes called a mutation. Some gene mutations are linked to breast cancer (BRCA1 and BRCA2), and can be inherited from your mother or father.

Most women with breast cancer don’t have a family history of the disease. In fact, only 5–10% of breast cancer cases in the United States are due to inherited genetic mutations. However, a woman who has a first-degree female relative (mom, sister, daughter) with breast cancer has almost twice the risk of developing breast cancer than a woman without this family history. Additionally, if she has more than one close female relative with a history of breast cancer, her risk is about 3–4 times higher.

On the contrary, while 5–10% of breast cancers in women are thought to be due to gene mutations, up to 40 percent of breast cancers in men may be related to inherited gene mutations.

Discussing your family history with your healthcare provider can help you understand your risks of developing breast cancer. Below, you’ll find some questions you can bring with you to your physician or genetic counselor, or grab this Komen card to print.

Ask Your Doctor

  • How do I know if I have an inherited genetic mutation? Do you recommend genetic counseling?

Ask Your Genetic Counselor

  • What can I learn from genetic testing?
  • What do I need to think about before I get genetic testing? What does our family need to know about genetic testing (i.e., emotional impact) and what will we do with this information?
  • How much does genetic testing cost? Does insurance pay for it?
  • Who will see my results? Will my results be kept private?
  • When should I have genetic testing done?
  • If I have a mutation, what can I do?
  • If I have a mutation, does it mean I will get breast cancer?
  • Will my family members (i.e., daughter, son, sister, mother) get breast cancer? What can we do? Where can we go for testing and counseling?
  • If I do not have a mutation, what does that mean about my risk of breast cancer?

Here at Komen CSNJ, we are dedicated to ending breast cancer forever, and we are here for those that need guidance, support and help. Visit our website at for more information.

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