Top 5 Things to Know about Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer Syndrome

1. Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer syndrome does not skip generations. If you have a small family or a predominance of men in your family, a history of breast and/or ovarian cancer may not be as apparent, but the mutation could still be present. If your mother or father has hereditary breast and ovarian cancer syndrome then you have a 50/50 chance to also have Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer syndrome. If you test positive then your children have the same 50/50 chance to have inherited hereditary breast and ovarian cancer syndrome as well. If you test negative for the known hereditary breast and ovarian cancer syndrome mutation in the family then you CANNOT pass on hereditary breast and ovarian cancer syndrome to your children. To learn more about inheritance click here or visit Kintalk's Genetics 101.

2. People of Ashkenazi Jewish descent have a higher-than-average chance of carrying a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation. Roughly 1 in 40 have one of these gene mutations. There are three common mutations in the Ashkenazi Jewish population which are BRCA1 185delAG, BRCA1 5382insC, and BRCA2 6174delT. These are known as founder mutation because 90% of people of Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry who have HBOC carry one of these three mutations. There is specific genetic testing that can be offered for a person of Askenazi Jewish ancestry to see if they carry one of these three mutations. This testing is available at most genetic laboratories.

3. Carrying a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation puts person at risk for breast and ovarian cancer no matter what their family history looks like. Family history of cancer can vary among families with hereditary breast and ovarian cancer syndrome. If you have a BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation, you are at increased risk of both breast cancer and ovarian cancer even if only one of these cancer types has predominated in your family. To learn more about the cancer risks associated with a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation click here.

4. Sharing your genetic information with at-risk family members can save lives. If you or a family member has a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation (or another cancer-related gene mutation), it is important to know the specific type of mutation that is present. This allows other people in the family to be tested for the same mutation. To learn more about how to share your genetic information with at-risk family members click here.

5. Surgical removal of the ovaries and fallopian tubes before a woman goes through menopause reduces her risk of both ovarian and breast cancer. Women who test positive for a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation have options for managing their risk of cancer. Preventive removal of the ovaries prior to menopause, for example, reduces a woman’s risk of ovarian cancer by 90% and breast cancer by 50%. However, removing the ovaries immediately puts a woman into surgical menopause and should be extensively discussed with her doctor prior to making a decision. For more information click here.