Thinking about cancer or dealing with cancer risk can be scary or overwhelming, but we believe that receiving information and resources is comforting, empowering, and lifesaving.
Breast cancer survivors with an inherited mutation, who choose breast conservation (lumpectomy) to treat their breast cancer may be 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, her exact mutation, 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 40% chance for
BRCA carriers to develop cancer in the opposite breast as well within 10 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. One study showed an increased risk for a second breast cancer in women with a certain CHEK2 mutation. Risk for a second breast cancer diagnosis in breast cancer survivors with other inherited mutations is unknown.
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.