Genes are particles held within the chromosomes of every cell. They are made of DNA and contain the instructions for building Proteins and regulating cell growth. Breast Cancer Genes are the faulty inherited genes that may be unable to control cell growth, thus increasing the risk of Breast Cancer.
What are the different types of genes that are associated with Breast Cancer?
The faulty genes which most significantly increase the risk of breast cancer are:
• PTEN genes
There are also several other faulty genes which increase the risk, though only slightly. These are CASP8, TNRCP, rs4973768, ATM, PALB2, to name just a few.
What is the normal risk of Breast Cancer?
The average risk for a woman of developing breast cancer over an 80 year lifespan is 12%. That is, out of every 8 women, 1 of them is likely to develop breast cancer sometime during their lives.
Does the risk increase with genes that are connected to Breast Cancer?
The risk significantly increases with genes connected to Breast Cancer. Women found carrying the faulty BRCA genes are at a 45-90% risk of being diagnosed with cancer sometime during the course of their lives. This means that out of every 100 woman with the BRCA faulty genes, 45 to 90 of them would develop breast cancer over a lifetime.
Who can be tested for the Breast Cancer gene?
According to the NICE, women with a higher risk of Breast Cancer can be referred to specialists for genetic testing. This high risk is determined by a 1 in 3 chance of getting breast cancer during a lifetime, or a greater than 1 in 12 chances of getting breast cancer before the age of 50. Their guideline outlines the following family situations which determine a high risk:
• The age of relatives being diagnosed with breast cancer. The younger they were when diagnosed, the higher the probability of having a faulty gene.
• Whether a family member ever developed cancer in both of the breasts.
• Whether any men from the family have had breast cancer.
• Whether any family member has ever had ovarian cancer.
The family members in question must all be blood relatives, and all from the same side, either the Mother’s or the Father’s.
What is a faulty gene?
All of us carry certain genes that are meant to protect us from Cancer, correcting any DNA damages that may occur when cells divide. “Faulty” genes are the inherited variants on these regular genes which may be incapable of repairing damaged cells, thus the cells could mutate and grow, eventually forming a tumour.
There are over a hundred ‘faulty’ genes which have so far been identified. Most of them cause negligible risk taken individually, however taken in a combination they can significantly increase the risk of cancer. One can, of course, reduce the risk by watching their weight and eating a regulated healthy diet, but even so the risk can’t be lowered significantly. Which is why many women opt for a preemptive Mastectomy or Oophorectomy, that is, a surgical operation to re-move the breasts or the ovaries.
These procedures come with risks which need to be carefully considered before making the de-cision. However, the breast cancer risk post a double-mastectomy is lowered by 90 to 95 per-cent.
What help is available?
If you are worried about your risk of having a faulty gene as a result of women in your family developing breast cancer, then you may seek advice from your GP. If your GP believes you have a high risk, then you will be referred to a local breast clinic. Furthermore, if there has already been a positive gene test within the family, you will even be recommended to a genetic clinic.