Have you heard of the BRCA1/2 gene? They are often labeled as the genetic cause of breast cancer. Doctors started running BRCA screenings on their patients, especially if the patient had a family history of breast cancer. The test results, combined with other lifestyle factors, would determine their overall risk and prompt certain patients to move forward with more aggressive screening, which would hopefully catch any aberrant cells early.
A few years ago, many of the genetic at-home screening companies began to offer BRCA testing. They tout it is a way to provide ‘prevention’ for patrons, identifying problems before they happen. Though they say it provides information about the ‘chance’ of developing cancer, I think it provides a false sense of security if the test is negative.
Causes of Breast Cancer
BRCA mutations only account for roughly 15% of all breast cancer cases. That means that 75% of breast cancer cases occur because of other reasons, both genetic and environmental. Although it is always good to find out if you are a carrier, even noncarriers can develop breast cancer in their lifetime. Many of my patients who developed breast cancers were not carriers of the gene.
This is why I am a firm believer that self-breast exams are still a great form of prevention. I recommend that all women do them at least quarterly, if not monthly. Use your menstrual cycle as a reminder to perform the exam. It is estimated that 40% of cancers are detected by women feeling a lump. So it is important to get to know your breasts. Learn what is normal for them, because we all have different shapes and sizes.
It’s time to take charge of your breast health! When was the last time you did an exam?
*If you need help learning how to do a proper exam, there are lots of tutorials online. Also, talk to your doctor for more information.