Breast Cancer is cancer that starts in the breast cells. In the United States, about 1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime.
Ovarian cancer refers to the abnormal growth and multiplication of cells in the ovarian tissues. This is the 10th most common cancer type affecting women in the U.S.
Cancer is the number one cause of death in Americans. In women, both breast and ovarian cancers increase the mortality rate significantly.
Symptoms of Breast Cancer
- Development of lumps in the breast or underarms
- Changes in the skin surrounding the breasts
- Abnormal pain around nipples and breasts
- Discharge from the nipples
- Breast swelling
Symptoms of Ovarian Cancer
Ovarian cancer does not show symptoms until cancer begins to spread, making it more difficult to treat. Some of the of advanced-stage ovarian cancer are:
- Abdominal pain
- Bowel movement changes
- Frequent urination
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer Syndrome
The Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer Syndrome (HBOC) is a genetic condition that increases women’s risk of developing breast and ovarian cancers.
HBOC may be suspected if a person has the below personal/family history.
First or second-degree relatives with both breast cancer and ovarian cancer: 10-20% of patients with breast cancer and ovarian cancers have a family history of either/both the types of cancer.
Genetic mutation (changes) in both the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes
Breast cancer diagnosis before the age of 50
Breast cancer diagnosis and Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry
BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes
BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes contain instructions for the production of tumor suppressor proteins.
These proteins prevent abnormal growth and division of cells and bring down the risk of cancers. Changes in these genes are very closely associated with breast cancer and ovarian cancer.
However, changes in these genes may not always lead to breast and ovarian cancer. It just means that women with these genetic mutations are at a higher risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer.
Genetic changes in either of these genes result in a breast cancer risk of 60-85% and an ovarian cancer risk of 15-40%.
Non-Genetic Factors That Increase The Risk Of Breast and Ovarian Cancers
Women between the ages 70-74 have the highest risk for breast cancer. Women between the ages of 55 and 64 have the highest risk for developing ovarian cancer.
In the United States, white and black women have a higher risk for developing breast cancer than American Indians, Asians, Pacific Islanders, and Hispanics. Whites and non-Hispanics have a higher risk for developing ovarian cancer than Asians, Pacific Islanders, and Hispanics.
Women who smoke are at higher risk for developing both breast cancer and ovarian cancer.
Post-menopausal obese women are at higher risk for developing breast and ovarian cancers because of higher inflammatory markers in the body.
Age At First Birth
Women who had their first child after 35 had a 22% increased risk for developing breast cancer.
Similarly, women who have never had children or those who get pregnant after 35 have a higher risk for developing ovarian cancer.
Recommendations To Bring Down Breast and Ovarian Cancer Risk
A BRCA genetic test can help you identify your genetic risk for breast and ovarian cancer. If any of your first or second-degree relatives have been diagnosed with breast cancer, ovarian cancer, or both in the past, then genetic testing is highly recommended. Your healthcare provider and a genetic counselor can help you understand risk assessment and the implications of the test.
Maintain a Healthy Weight
Since obesity increases your risk for both breast and ovarian cancers, maintaining a healthy weight can help lower your risk.
Regular Physical Activity
Being physically active may reduce the risk and improve survival rates for both breast and ovarian cancers.
- The Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer Syndrome (HBOC) is a genetic syndrome that increases a woman’s risk of developing breast and ovarian cancers.
- Genetic variations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes can increase your risk for breast and ovarian cancer.
- Having first and second relatives with breast and ovarian cancer can also increase your breast cancer risk.
- Other risk factors for breast and ovarian cancer include smoking, obesity, and Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry.
- BRCA genetic testing is recommended for at-risk women.
- Maintaining a healthy weight, quitting smoking, and planning a pregnancy before 35 can help bring down the risk for breast and ovarian cancers.
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