Managing your risk

If your test result is positive, you have arange of options to manage your risk. Risk-reducing surgery is not the only option.

Ultimately, there's no right or wrong answer about what you should do it's a decision only you can make.

Regularly examining your breasts

If you havethefaultyBRCA1/2 gene,it's a good idea to be aware of changes in your breasts.

Detecting breast cancer at an early stage means it may be easier to treat. The chance of making a full recovery from breast cancer, especially if it is detected early, is relatively high compared with other forms of cancer.

Unfortunately, there's currently no reliable screening testfor ovarian cancer or prostate cancer.These include taking plenty of exercise andeating a healthy diet.

If youhave afaulty BRCA gene, be awareof other factorsthat could increase your risk of breast cancer. It's recommended that you avoid:

  • the oral contraceptive pill if you areover 35
  • combined hormone replacement therapy (HRT) if youre over 50
  • drinking more than the maximum recommendeddailylimitsof alcohol
  • being overweight

The National Institutefor Health and Care Excellence (NICE) also recommends that women with a family history of breast cancer breastfeed their children, ifpossible.

Read about the things that may help to prevent ovarian cancer .

Medication (chemoprevention)

NICE has recommended treatment withtamoxifenor raloxifene fora specific group of women whohave ahigh risk of developing breast cancer. These medicines can reduce the risk of breast cancer for up to 20 years from five years of taking them.

For more information, readthe article: Drugs to be offered to women at high risk of breast cancer , which also explains the side effects these medicines can cause.

Read the full NICE 2013 guidelines on familial breast cancer .

Risk-reducing surgery

Risk-reducing surgery means removing all the tissue (such as the breasts or ovaries) that could become cancerous. Carriers ofa faulty BRCA gene may wish to considera preventative mastectomy .

Women who have risk-reducing mastectomies reduce their risk of developing breast cancer by around 90%. However, a mastectomy isa majoroperationand recovering from it can be physically and emotionally difficult.

Surgery can also be used to reduce ovarian cancer risk. Women who have their ovaries removed before the menopause not only dramatically reduce their risk of developing ovarian cancer, but also reduce their risk of developing breast cancer by up to 50%. However, thiswill trigger an early menopause and mean you're not able to have your own children (unless you store eggs or embryos).Therefore, carriers of the faulty genewho are younger than 40 usuallywait to have this operation.

Content supplied by the NHS Website

Medically Reviewed by a doctor on 21 Dec 2018