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Breast Cancer Genes

About 5-10% of women who are diagnosed with breast cancer have a form of breast cancer that is inherited. This cancer results from mutations of certain genes.  This genetic mutation makes women more likely to get breast cancer and other types of cancers.

There are two genetic mutations that pertain to breast cancer.  They are called BRCA1 and BRCA2.  These are shorthand terms for "breast cancer 1" and "breast cancer 2".  These genes are responsible for many cases of  breast and ovarian cancer.

If you have the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene, you are at a higher risk of developing breast or ovarian cancer at a young age.  It is believed that a mutation in the BRCA2 gene also may increase your risk of getting lymphoma, melanoma, pancreatic cancergallbladder cancer, bile duct cancer, and stomach cancer.

If you have a mutation of the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene, it is estimated that you are 3 to 7 times more likely to develop breast cancer than women without a genetic mutation.

In a family with a history of breast and/or ovarian cancer, some people recommend that you first test a family member who has the disease.  If that person is found to have the mutated BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene, you can then be tested to see if you also carry that mutated gene.

If you test positive for the presence of a mutated gene, there are several options. 

First, if cancer develops, it is important to detect it as soon as possible. You should be monitored frequently for signs and symptoms of breast cancer.  You should have mammograms and physical exams of your breasts.  The earlier cancer is found and treated, the more likely it can be cured. 

One method of finding ovarian cancer is to get a transvaginal ultrasound.  Also, physical exams and blood test called CA-125 can find ovarian cancer.   

Another option for those with BRCA1 or BRCA2 breast cancer genes is surgery to remove the breasts (mastectomy), even before any cancer has developed in the breasts. This is controversial but is a choice many women have made.

The has also been some research that supports the use of drug therapy to prevent the development of breast cancer in women with the BRCA1 or 2 gene.  In particular, one study found that Tamoxifen reduced the risk of developing breast cancer in these women.

For more information about breast cancer, call the breast cancer malpractice lawyers, serving Western Pennsylvania, including Pittsburgh, Greensburg, Washington, Uniontown, Beaver, and Erie.