You may have seen the term “BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 testing” being used on the internet in regard to breast cancer, but are you unsure about what it means? The simple explanation is this: BRCA1 and BRCA 2 are genes that help repair damaged DNA. Damaged DNA can lead to tumor growth. When either of these genes do not function properly, cells are more likely to develop genetic alterations that can lead to cancer.
Cancer is the leading cause of death around the world. Every year, approximately 12.7 million people are diagnosed with cancer and 7.6 million of them will die from the disease.
While most people are aware that breast cancer is an issue, many still don’t take the necessary steps to detect the disease in its early stages. Every October, doctors, nurses and organizations use this month to raise awareness for the detection of breast cancer.
As part of your annual exam a breast exam should be performed by a professional. Breast self-exam is now considered optional. If you are comfortable doing it and it does not create anxiety, you should examine once a month AFTER your menses or anytime if menopausal. Studies show limited benefit in self-exam in women who get examined by a professional and who do routine screening, so do what you feel is right for you.
Screening Mammograms (x-ray) should begin at age 40, then every 1-2 years until age 50 then annually. This applies to average risk women and can be modified in high risk women such as genetic carriers, or with and extremely high risk family history. Most screening mammograms do not need to be ordered by a provider and are generally covered by insurers if done at appropriate ages and intervals.