A little knowledge can go a long way in helping you understand your risk for breast and ovarian cancers. Once you learn your risk for these cancers, we hope you will talk to you doctor and develop a strategy to reduce your risk or detect these diseases at early, non-life-threatening stages.
Cancer is a disease in which cells in the body grow out of control. When cancer starts in the breast, it is called breast cancer. About 7 out of 100 women (or 7%) will be diagnosed with breast cancer by the time they turn 70 years old.
Ovarian cancer is far less common. About 1 out of 100 women (or 1%) will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer by age 70. Though it is less common than breast cancer, ovarian cancer causes more deaths than any other cancer of the female reproductive system.
About 5–10% of breast and 10-15% of ovarian cancers are hereditary. These hereditary breast and ovarian cancers are caused by inherited changes in genes such as BRCA1 and BRCA2.
While breast and ovarian cancers are most common in older women (about 89% of breast cancers occur in women older than 45 years of age), they can and do occur in younger women. There are some important differences when these cancers do affect young women:
Every woman can benefit from learning the risk factors and symptoms of breast and ovarian cancers.
If you have one or more of these factors, it does not mean you will get breast cancer. Talk to your doctor about ways to reduce your risk.
Pay attention to your body and know what is normal for you. If you have any signs that worry you, be sure to see your doctor right away.
If you have one or more of these factors, it does not mean you will get ovarian cancer. Talk to your doctor about ways to reduce your risk.
If you have:
Pay attention to your body and know what is normal for you. See a doctor if you have any of these signs for two weeks or longer and they are not normal for you.
The next time you visit the doctor, consider talking about what you have learned about breast and ovarian cancers.
Be sure to tell your doctor about your family history of cancer (especially breast, ovarian, fallopian tube, pancreatic, and prostate cancers) and about any other risk factors you may have.
If you need help collecting and organizing your family health history, use the U.S. Surgeon General's family health history portrait, https://familyhistory.hhs.gov/.
Together, you and your doctor can develop a personalized strategy to reduce your risk.
Know:BRCA is an online resource for women with a family history of breast or ovarian cancer. It helps women understand their risk for having a BRCA1 or BRCA 2 gene mutation and encourages women to talk with their family and medical providers. Women can then make more informed decisions about reducing their risk for breast and ovarian cancer.
The Know:BRCA Assessment will tell you which of two groups you are in:
The Assessment will NOT tell you if you have a BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation. If you are assessed "at increased risk of having a BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation", it is recommended that you make an appointment with a genetic counselor and discuss whether genetic testing will be right for you.
Also, the Assessment will NOT tell you if you have breast, ovarian, or other cancers, nor will it tell you if you have other risk factors for developing these cancers.
This Assessment estimates your chance of having a BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation using a mathematical process known as an algorithm. It looks at how many people in your family have had breast or ovarian cancer, how they are related to you, and how old they were when they got cancer. The more information you enter about your family’s history of cancer, the more accurate the Assessment will be. Include the medical histories of as many relatives as you can – both males and females – whether they have had cancer or not.
This Assessment is based on an algorithm and is not perfect. Not all women with a BRCA gene mutation will be found with the algorithm and some women without the mutation may be told that they are likely to have it. It is very important to discuss your results with a doctor who can review your personal and family cancer history and confirm whether or not you are at increased risk for a BRCA gene mutation.