Health Magazine

When Families Have Multiple Members with Breast Cancer

Posted on the 14 November 2011 by Jean Campbell

My mother was one of six girls; the only one to develop breast cancer. She was diagnosed at 72 years old and lived to be 85 years breast cancer free.

The six girls had eight girls. Five of the eight girls were diagnosed with breast cancer in their early to mid fifties, including me.

Yet, testing did not identify any genetic defects. Does that mean there is no genetic defect in my family? As it was explained to me…no.

According to the geneticist I met with, at the present time inherited breast cancer disorders account for a small minority of breast cancers overall. Only in about 10% of all breast cancer cases is there actually a genetic defect that can be tested.

Most breast cancers are considered to be from other than genetic causes. In fact, most cases of breast cancer occur in women who do not have a family history of breast cancer. The current theory is that there is a complex interplay between environmental and genetic factors that affects the development of breast cancer, and all the key factors have not yet been identified.

So, what does that mean for all of us who have more than one family member with breast cancer?

breast cancer genetic counseling
First, consider speaking to a genetic counselor about being tested for known genetic causes of breast cancer. Before you do, learn what you can about genetic testing. An excellent resource for well written, comprehensive information on genetic testing and counseling for breast cancer can be found on the Net Wellness website at

Secondly, be diligent about breast screenings.

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