Pink Up: Understanding your risk of developing breast cancer

Published: Jul. 8, 2022 at 4:26 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

PINE BELT, Miss. (WDAM) - One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime, but some women are at an even higher risk.

For example, WDAM 7′s Kendall Duncan is at an increased risk because her mom and her grandmother were both diagnosed with breast cancer. Because of that, she understood her risk from an early age. However, not everyone knows the factors that can increase their chance of getting breast cancer.

“As for right now, we’re focusing mostly on the genetic components of it,” Dr. Steven Cunningham said.

Cunningham, a diagnostic radiologist specializing in breast imaging with Forrest General Hospital, is specifically talking about one gene in particular-the BRCA gene.

“All that stands for is the BR is the first 2 letters of breast, the CA is the first two letters of cancer. They put it together,” Cunningham said. “But what that is, is a normal gene that all women have. You have a problem if there’s a mutation in that gene.”

So when should someone get tested to see if they have a mutation in the BRCA gene?

Dr. Fred Vial, a diagnostic radiologist at South Central Regional Medical Center, says those with family members who were diagnosed with breast cancer young.

“Particularly pre-menopausal patients. That’s where we get suspicious and we want to get that genetic testing done,” Vial said.

“If you test positive, that stratifies you in a higher risk category,” Cunningham said. “If you have the type 1 mutation, you jump from a 12.5% risk lifetime of getting cancer to 72% chance. If it’s the BRCA 2 mutation, then it’s a little lower at 69%. That’s a massive discrepancy.”

While those are scary numbers, it just means getting checked more often than the average woman or doing multiple types of tests.

“The mammogram is the most important test. We can’t do without the mammogram,” Vial said. “Ultrasound will detect cancers that the mammogram does not and vice versa and an MRI is the same way. So for different types of cancer or different findings for cancer each modality is cumulative.”

And the range of tests helps doctors identify cancer earlier because...

“The cure for breast cancer..the cure is early detection,” Cunningham said.

“Early detection is key,” Vial said. “With early detection, the 5-year survivability of breast cancer approaches 100% and that’s a tremendous win.”

So regardless of if you’re at high risk or not, it’s important to get annual screenings.

Copyright 2022 WDAM. All rights reserved.

Want more WDAM 7 news in your inbox? Click here to subscribe to our newsletter.