Early Detection Screenings for Women with the BRCA Mutations

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You may have a daughter... a niece... a friend... who is a recent college grad just getting her professional feet wet, faced with the reality of trying to get a job. But, trying to get a job may not be her only concern; she could also need to start thinking about getting screened for breast cancer.

Breast Cancer Occurring In Young Women

According to a recent study published in the journal, Cancer, breast cancer may be showing up at earlier ages in women with a family history of the condition. Women with mutations in the breast cancer genes – called BRCA1 and BRCA2 – are known to be at a higher risk of developing breast and ovarian cancers. This"new" generation of women also is being diagnosed earlier than previous generations.

In this study, women with the BRCA mutations were diagnosed with breast cancer at age 42, on average, whereas their mothers and aunts of the previous generation, also believed to have BRCA mutations, were diagnosed at age 48 – a good six years later.

This in turn means that screenings to detect breast cancer earlier should be started as young as 20 – before turning legal drinking age – for women with the BRCA mutations. This supports the National Comprehensive Cancer Network's recommendation that breast screenings should begin as young as age 20 to 25 for women at risk of hereditary breast and ovarian cancer – five to 10 years earlier than the youngest age of diagnosis in the family.

"According to the ACS (American Cancer Society), the risk for women with a BRCA mutation developing breast cancer is as high as 80 percent," says Homayoon Sanati, M.D., medical director, MemorialCare Breast Center, Long Beach Memorial. "This is why early detection is so crucial for women with the BRCA mutations. Early detection can help find cancers early when the likelihood of successful treatment is greatest. Prevention and detection is the best medicine."

Some women with a strong family history of breast cancer in two first-degree relatives (mothers, sisters, daughters) may want to be evaluated for genetic testing to see if they are at risk for the BRCA mutations. Be sure to talk to an experienced genetics doctor to see if you need to and how to go through genetic testing.

Mammograms & MRI Screenings

It also is recommended by, the American Cancer Society that women at high-risk for breast cancer, including women with BRCA mutations, should get screened with Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) in addition to getting mammograms. MRI is thought to catch small tumors earlier than mammography.

Choosing A Comprehensive Breast Center

It is important to choose a comprehensive breast center that can do extensive genetic counseling and is a leader in total breast health. The MemorialCare Breast Center at Long Beach Memorial was named the "Breast Imaging Center of Excellence" by the American College of Radiology and uses the latest in digital mammography, MRI and ultrasound technology. Dedicated to early detection and diagnosis of breast cancer, the Breast Center has three female sub-specialized, fellowship-trained breast radiologists. A one-stop shop, the MemorialCare Breast Center, offers patients an entire work up, including a biopsy, all in one appointment.

Make an appointment today