Myth #1: Most breast cancer is genetic.
In reality, only about 5-10 percent of breast cancer cases are hereditary.
If you do have a strong family history of breast and ovarian cancer, you
may have inherited what’s called a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation, which
greatly increases the chances of developing breast or ovarian cancer.
If your family history raises red flags, tell your doctor, and start the
conversation about your own personal risk.
The breast cancer is on my father’s side of the family, so there’s
nothing to worry about.
It’s easy to fall prey to this line of thought, but fathers actually
pass down the BRCA mutation at the same rate mothers do, so definitely
consider the cancer history on both the maternal and paternal sides of
Myth #3: If you have a mutation, you will automatically get cancer.
Of course not. But, most women who have a BRCA1 or BRCA2 genetic mutation
are diagnosed with Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer syndrome, which
in turn means they have a 50-85% chance of developing breast cancer by
age 70 and a 40-60% risk of developing ovarian cancer by 85. In these
cases, there are still options to reduce their breast cancer risk, like
more frequent breast exams, early breast imaging and screening, and preventative
Myth #4: Men don’t have to worry about inherited breast cancer.
Men carry these mutations too, which means they could have an increased
risk of developing prostate cancer. Having a BRCA2 mutation also increases
a man’s risk of melanoma and pancreatic cancer, in addition to breast cancer.
Myth #5: I already have cancer so knowing my BRCA status won’t change anything.
Knowing your BRCA status opens the door to certain treatment options. Plus,
patients with a hereditary predisposition have a much higher risk of getting
a new primary cancer in another place. Genetic testing can also help let
your family members know about their own potential cancer risk.
Want to know your risk? Take our
Breast Cancer Risk Assessment