Having a family history of breast cancer is one of the risk factors that can increase your chance of having this disease. Genetic counseling can reveal if you have certain mutations that raise your risk of breast cancer, which can help you make important decisions that could significantly lower this risk. However, many women do not have access to this type of testing, and doctors do not always bring it up as an option or recommend it.

Genetic Mutations in BRCA Genes

Mutations on the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes have been associated with a higher risk of developing breast cancer and a deadly form of ovarian cancer. Women who have one or both of these genetic mutations and find out before having cancer can take steps to lower their risk, such as opting for a double mastectomy or a oophorectomy (ovary removal). Those who have already been diagnosed with breast cancer can also use this information to decide the best course of treatment.

Risk Factors for Genetic Mutations

Women who have one or more risk factors might be considered at an increased risk of having genetic mutations that are linked to breast cancer. These risk factors include the following:

  • Having a family history of breast cancer and other types of cancer
  • Being at a younger age when receiving a cancer diagnosis
  • Having a personal history of breast cancer or other certain cancer types
  • Having Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry and other risk factors
  • Having a family history of one or more genetic mutations that are associated with cancer