Most breast cancers are found in women who are 50 years old or older, but about 9,000 women who are younger than 40 years old are diagnosed with breast cancer each year in the United States. In this younger group, breast cancer is generally more aggressive, found at a later stage, and has lower survival rates.
Two genes influence risk for breast cancer: BRCA1 and BRCA2. All men and women have these genes. Normally, they help protect you from getting cancer. But when one or both of them have a mutation(change), they increase your breast and ovarian cancer risk. Without treatment, women with a BRCA gene mutation are seven times more likely to get breast cancer and 30 times more likely to get ovarian cancer before age 70 than other women.
How do I know if I have a higher risk for a BRCA gene mutation?
Learn your family history of cancer. Talk to your doctor if you have—
- Multiple relatives with breast cancer.
- Any relatives with ovarian cancer.
- Relatives who were diagnosed with breast or ovarian cancer before age 50.
The Know:BRCA tool can help you learn about BRCA genes and assess your risk of having a BRCA mutation. Learning your risk can help you and your doctor make important decisions about your health. There is also a Know:BRCA tool for clinicians.
What should I do if I am at increased risk?
The only way to know for sure if you have a BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation is to get a genetic test. You should meet with a genetic counselor before getting a genetic test. Your doctor can refer you to one. Most people do not need genetic counseling and testing. A genetic test helps only the small number of people with a higher risk for having a mutation.
If you learn that you have a BRCA gene mutation, you can take important steps to reduce your cancer risk.
What should I do if I am NOT at increased risk?
Most women who get breast and ovarian cancer do not have a BRCA gene mutation. If you do not have a family history of breast or ovarian cancer, follow recommended breast cancer screening guidelines.
How can I help others?
Help us promote awareness about hereditary breast and ovarian cancer by sharing this page and the infographics below.