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Understanding BRCA & HBOC > Special Populations > Breast Cancer Survivors

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Breast Cancer Survivors

Learn more about how HBOC affects members of specific populations.


About 10% of breast cancer is due to a hereditary change such as a BRCA mutation. Sometimes, either because of a family history of cancer or because of particular traits of the cancer itself, a diagnosis of breast cancer may suggest that the cancer is hereditary. In these circumstances an appointment with an expert, such as a geneticist or a genetic counselor, is recommended. Hereditary breast cancer and sporadic breast cancer are similar in some ways, but there are also significant differences. Learning that breast cancer is hereditary may change treatment or follow-up recommendations for breast cancer. Also, if a cancer survivor is the first person to have a genetic test in a family, his/her test result may help identify the cause of hereditary cancer in this family. This information can help other family members make decisions about genetic counseling and testing.

Breast cancer survivors with a BRCA mutation or hereditary breast cancer have a higher likelihood of developing a second breast cancer than women with sporadic breast cancer. This occurrence of a second breast cancer is considered a new "primary cancer.” This is different from a "recurrence" of the original breast cancer. Breast cancer survivors with a BRCA mutation also have a higher risk for ovarian cancer. Options for risk management in cancer survivors are similar to option for cancer previvors who have never been diagnosed.

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