The Breast, Ovarian and Uterine Cancer Connection

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November 6, 2013


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This post is available in: Spanish

Last week marked the end of October Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  We heard a lot of talk about a connection between breast, ovarian and uterine cancers and the need to learn your family history and be proactive about lowering your risk.   

It may still be unclear to you what exact actions you need to take to play an active role in your health, so I asked Alberto Sirven, M.D, chief of Women & Infants at West Kendall Baptist Hospital, to shed some light on the subject.

According to Dr. Sirven, the connection between breast, ovarian and uterine cancer can not be denied ─ it is real. However, he cautions not to be lulled into complacency by the genetic mutations known as BRCA1 and BRCA2  which only affect 5 to10 percent of the population ─ the remaining 90 percent of the women diagnosed with breast cancer do NOT have any family history.  

This is why knowing your family history is so important.  If you have some family relatives who have had breast, ovarian, uterine or colon cancer, you probably should discuss with your physician the genetic testing options available to you and your family.

Dr. Sirven says that many physicians use the Gail Model,  a risk-assessment tool, to evaluate a patients’ risk of developing breast cancer. It’s a simple test that asks a few questions about personal and family history. Based on test results, a personal plan of action can be developed.

He also mentions the Lynch Syndrome,  the most common hereditary non-polyposis (HNPCC) gene mutation.  Not as well known as the BRCA gene mutations, the Lynch mutation is known to increase a person’s risk for endometrial and colon cancer.

Genetic Susceptibility Testing for hereditary breast/ovarian, colorectal/endometrial, pancreatic and melanoma cancers has been available to the general public for about 13 years. If those cancers are in your family history, speak with your physician and consider learning more about genetic testing, the risks and the benefits.

In general, Dr. Sirven says: “Cancer can not be prevented. You can’t change who you are, but you should know your risk factors, perform breast self exams, get regular check-ups, have an annual mammogram, eat a healthy diet and know that if cancer is caught early the survival rates are in the 80 percentile.”

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