Is breast or ovarian cancer in your family?

February 27, 2012

Breast health, Cancer, Cervical issues

It is rare that men develop breast cancer, but those who carry BRCA mutations are more likely to develop breast or prostate cancers.

by Dr. Paul Stallone — 

Knowing your risk of contracting cancer can better prepare you to take the steps necessary to reduce the chance of being diagnosed. Even better than early detection are new tests that can detail the inherited risks people may have for certain cancers.

One such test now available is BRACanalysis® — a blood test that assesses an individual’s risk of developing breast or ovarian cancer by testing for the gene associated with hereditary breast and ovarian cancer syndrome. Individuals with a hereditary risk will most often have a mutation in one or two genes, BRCA1 and BRCA2. These genetic mutations can be passed down from either the paternal or maternal side.

Men are not immune to breast cancer and should consider testing if they have a personal history of breast cancer, a family history of breast cancer, a family history of ovarian cancer, or a family member with a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation.

It is rare that men develop breast cancer, but those who carry BRCA mutations are more likely to develop breast or prostate cancers. They are also 50 percent more likely to pass on the mutation to their children, whether or not they have been diagnosed with either cancer.

Serious considerations for testing should be made for individuals and their children who:

  • Have had breast cancer before the age of 50
  • Have two or more relatives with breast cancer
  • Have had breast cancer in both breasts or more than once in the same breast
  • Have had breast cancer and are of Ashkenazi or Eastern European Jewish ancestry
  • Have a male relative with breast cancer
  • Have had ovarian cancer at any age

The testing process involves sending a simple blood sample to the lab for analysis. The main reason for consideration is to allow for preventative planning to be put into place. A positive test result does not indicate that you have or will develop either cancer. It simply indicates that you have the genes that increase your chances for developing breast and ovarian cancers. In the case of cancer survivors, testing results indicating hereditary factors can help you make more informed decisions about risk-reducing medications or preventative surgeries.

For those being tested for the syndrome who have not developed cancer, results suggest an increase surveillance by your doctor and yourself. This includes annual or semi-annual screenings of the breast and ovaries, as well as MRIs and mammogram allowance at a younger age. You also may consider chemoprevention and preventative surgery.

Testing for your own risk is an excellent way to stay on top of your health and keep your family members informed. Several insurance companies offer coverage (or reimbursement) for the testing, some up to 90 percent.

It is recommended to follow the treatment guidelines put in place by the American Cancer Society. In following these guidelines, reviewing your own risks and following a treatment plan with your own health team, you can greatly increase your peace of mind and quality of life.


Paul Stallone, N.M.D., founded the Arizona Integrative Medical Center in Scottsdale, Ariz. He combines natural, alternative and conventional treatments to best fit and benefit each individual patient’s needs. or 480-214-3922.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 29, Number 1, Feb/Mar 2010.

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