PINK UP: Hattiesburg doctor stresses importance of knowing risk for breast cancer

PINK UP: Hattiesburg doctor stresses importance of knowing risk for breast cancer
Updated: Sep. 7, 2019 at 6:34 PM CDT
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HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) - Dr. Steven Cunningham, with Merit Health in Hattiesburg, is stressing the importance of knowing your risk for breast and ovarian cancer.

“The significance of this gene is that if you have this mutation, not necessarily the gene because everyone has the gene, but if you have this mutation in the gene, you’re going to be at an elevated risk for acquiring breast and/or ovarian cancer,” Cunningham said.

Cunningham said innovations in testing for BRCA gene mutation has made it easier than ever to do so and could even save your life.

“Lifetime risk for breast cancer Is 12% just the average person walking around. 1 out of 8 ladies may come down with this. But if you test positive for this mutation. You will have an elevated risk.”

Just how high is that risk? Dr. Cunningham said if you carry the BRCA 1 gene mutation, your lifetime risk increases to about 72%. If you carry the BRCA 2 gene mutation, you’re looking at about a 69% risk.

That’s almost six times the average risk.

Not sure if you’d be a candidate for the test? Cunningham said looking at your family’s heath history can give you an idea.

“Based on family history and a lot of other issues,” Cunningham said. “Mainly the family history will tell you if you’re at an elevated risk for the gene mutation itself. If you have a lot of cancers in your family. You know hey this is a little out of the ordinary. We’ve got stomach cancer, prostate, thyroid, cancers in both breasts. Anything that says there’s something strange here in my family. You’re at an elevated risk for having this gene mutation.”

Cunningham said the BRCA test is simple to complete.

“You need to have some sort of body fluid,” Cunningham said. “Usually it’s a blood draw and in some places, we’re do a salivary test kind of like these ancestry DNA tests that are really popular right now. They can do it that way as well.”

With breast cancer awareness month right around the corner, Cunningham said prevention is still key.

“The best thing you can do is don’t wait for October,” Cunningham said. “Come in at your regularly scheduled time. We do them all year long, not just in October. The key is just coming in annually and making sure you’re doing your own breast exams and getting mammograms done.”

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