The understanding of the influence our genes have on our health is growing all the time, but already in breast cancer, we understand a great deal.
Our risk of developing breast cancer is higher when close relatives such as your mother, sister or daughter is diagnosed, especially if they are under 50. However, more than 8 out of 10 women who have a close relative with breast cancer will never develop it. Changes (mutations) in certain genes such as BRCA1 and BRCA 2 also influence this risk, as recently highlighted by Angelina Jolie. If you think you are part of a family who carry a higher than average risk, you should see your GP. UK guidelines such as those published by NICE, help GPs identify people who might have an increased risk of cancer due to their family history and refer them for assessment.
Once identified as being at higher risk of developing breast cancer, some women choose to have risk-reducing surgery. This involves removing the breast tissue (bilateral mastectomy) with or without having a breast reconstruction. Ms de Sousa will see you, advise you of your options (see section on breast reconstruction) and after psychological assessment, perform the appropriate surgery for you with regular follow up afterwards. Alternatively, some ladies chose to be monitored closely with imaging, examination and perhaps medication such as tamoxifen.