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Hereditary Cancer Info > Special Populations > Breast Cancer Survivors

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Breast Cancer Survivors

Learn more about how HBOC affects members of specific populations.

Risk for second primary breast cancer

Breast cancer survivors with a BRCA mutation, who choose breast conservation (lumpectomy) to treat their breast cancer are at higher risk for another cancer in either breast than a woman with sporadic breast cancer.  Although exact risk depends on a woman’s age and other factors, one study found BRCA carriers diagnosed with breast cancer have a 14% chance within ten years of developing the disease in the same breast, and a 37% chance within ten years of developing the disease in the opposite breast. Another study found a 47% chance for BRCA carriers to develop cancer in the opposite breast as well within 25 years of their initial diagnosis. The risk for a second breast cancer among women who develop sporadic cancer is about 10%. A 2010 study indicated that compared to women without hereditary cancer, a women with a BRCA mutation have a chance of a new breast cancer diagnosis that is up to 5 times more likely.  

Because of the risk for a second cancer diagnosis, many breast survivors who learn they have a mutation in BRCA or another gene that increases breast cancer risk choose bilateral mastectomy rather than lumpectomy and radiation. Genetic testing in women newly diagnosed with breast cancer can help the decision-making process. Breast cancer survivors who are concerned that their cancer may be due to an inherited mutation should speak with a genetics expert about testing.

Updated 12/30/2016

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