Myth: Having a family history of breast cancer means you will get it too.
No. If someone in your family has breast cancer you are not guaranteed to get it too. Only 5-10% of breast cancers diagnoses are hereditary! However, your risk may be increased. This is usually when a first-degree (mother, daughter, sister, etc.) has been diagnosed or if you have inherited the BRCA-1 or BRCA-2 gene mutations (aka: the “Angelina Jolie genes”).
Women who possess these gene mutations have a 40-85% chance of developing breast cancer in their lifetime and are typically classified as “high risk.” They are more likely to develop breast cancer at a younger age (before menopause), and often have multiple family members with the disease.
It’s important that we are all aware of our family history when it comes to breast cancer, but it is also important that we are keeping complicated issues and information from being misinterpreted and spread as frightening rumours.
If you are concerned or unsure about your hereditary risk for breast cancer, the best things you can do are talk to your family members and ask your doctor if you are eligible for genetic testing.