Facebook Pixel
EmpowHER Guest

If there is a family history of breast cancer what would you recommend as far as BRCA testing and geneticcounseling?

By Anonymous June 25, 2009 - 8:21pm
Rate This

My mother passed away at 60 yrs old after havingg breast cancer since she was 52 years old. my aunt, my mom's sister has breast cancer that was diagnosed when she was over 50 as well. My sisters and i want to know if we should have the BRCA testing and/or genetic counseling? My sisters and I are in our 40s.

Add a Comment1 Comments

HERWriter Guide


Thank you so much for your question - welcome to Empowher!

We have spoken about this very topic several times on Empowher - here is an excerpt that I wrote to one of our readers recently:

Several doctors have told me that they believe a woman should start mammograms 10 years before the age their relative was upon diagnosis. in other words, if your mom was 40 when she was diagnosed, you should start testing at age 30. This isn't a 'rule' of course, but many doctors think it's a good idea.

In terms of mammograms, you will hear various pros and cons for them. Many women have had cancerous lumps detected via mammograms - even as young women. Others have been diagnosed with breast cancer even though a mammogram showed nothing at all.

People worry about the radiation involved in mammograms.

Another issue for you to consider with mammograms is that the younger you are, the denser your breast tissue is and makes finding a lump quite difficult.

Other people prefer ultrasounds; I know someone who found a lump that a subsequent mammogram didn't find - but a ultrasound did. This person (a medical doctor herself) is a great believer in ultrasounds to detect breast cancer.

Diet is linked to many cancers. With regard to eating soy - there has been much speculation as to soy and it's relationship to breast cancer.
Some studies of Asian women (who traditionally eat soy as part of their regular diet) and who traditionally have low incidences of breast cancer, lead many to believe that eating soy was beneficial to breast health.

However, since soy produces estrogen-like properties and since an increase in estrogen is a risk to getting breast cancer, it has also been said that women should hold off on eating a lot of sow (generally about 40 grams or more everyday). Studies have shown a weak link (but a link, nonetheless) between soy consumption and breast cancer but further, long-term effects could not be concluded.
It must also be said that it's thought that these 40 grams more of soy may be risky, rather than the lesser amounts that, for example, Japanese women have in the average diet (less than 15 grams).

Don't forget that self breast exams are crucial for you. Many women find their own lumps themselves.

This BRCA test is the test that can determine your genetic risks for getting breast cancer. A positive result is not a guarantee of getting cancer of course, not is a negative result a guarantee that you will not get it.

You may have read stories of women who are very high risk who got positive results and elected to have mastectomies. This is a huge decision that a woman would need to make, after much thought and consultation. BRCA tests are considered most important for women under 50 whose family members were under age 50 when they were diagnosed with breast cancer.

One more thing I want to say was to take into account the risks of genetic testing like the BRCA tests. These are financial risks. You do risk being denied life insurance, health insurance or even employment, even if this is not legal (especially with regard to employment). Health records are not as confidential as we think, despite HIPAA rules regarding patient privacy.

I know several breast cancer survivors (in their 30s) who are denied life insurance. Those with positive BRCA results can face the same dilemmas.

We never want to think that these issues will dictate our proactivism with our health care but I just want to let you know the real life consequences some people have paid for genetic testing.

I know you have many decisions to make. Since you have such a strong, documented history of breast cancer in your family, your insurance may actually cover some or all of this testing. Make sure your doctor documents your family history when giving your referrals. With some insurance companies, this does make a difference in their decision whether to cover you or not.

And lastly, make sure you maintain a healthy, fresh diet and exercise regularly - don't drink more than two alcoholic drinks a day (max) and don't smoke.

Has this helped you? I know it's a ton of information all at once but I hope you can figure out what to do that's right for you. I know how hard it is to have a family history and have these fears live with you.

Has this information helped you?

June 26, 2009 - 7:53pm
Enter the characters shown in the image.
By submitting this form, you agree to EmpowHER's terms of service and privacy policy
Add a Comment

All user-generated information on this site is the opinion of its author only and is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for any medical conditions. Members and guests are responsible for their own posts and the potential consequences of those posts detailed in our Terms of Service.

Breast Cancer

Get Email Updates

Related Checklists

Breast Cancer Guide


Have a question? We're here to help. Ask the Community.


Health Newsletter

Receive the latest and greatest in women's health and wellness from EmpowHER - for free!