Today, actress Angelina Jolie, through her own personal story, brought awareness to a very important issue in the fight against breast cancer – hereditary breast cancer prevention.
By testing positive for a “faulty” gene (in the BRCA family) known to significantly increase a woman’s risk of breast and ovarian cancer, she made the brave choice to undergo a preventative double mastectomy.
As breast cancer genetic research continues to advance, more education on breast cancer prevention in high-risk women is a top priority, experts say.
“Identifying high-risk women is key to early prevention and early prevention saves lives,” said Dr. Julie Nangia, assistant professor in the Lester and Sue Smith Breast Center at Baylor College of Medicine and director of the high risk and prevention clinic at the Harris Health System’s Smith Clinic. “Having a strong family history puts a woman at a very high risk.”
Thankfully, testing for the BRCA gene is widely available to help this group of women, Nangia said.
But who gets the test should be decided by genetic experts, such as a genetic counselor. She said multiple factors should be considered, such as which family members of a breast cancer patient should be tested, what type of cancer, their age and how close the relation is.
“High risk women should be more aggressively screened and consider having preventative surgery,” said Nangia.
There are also lifestyle behavior changes to consider including alcohol intake, weight and exercise management.
Nangia encourages all women to constantly be in communication with their doctor about their family history of cancer.
-By Glenna Picton