Iconic Community / 23 Mar, 2020

What to do if you have a genetic risk of cancer

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What to do if you have a genetic risk of cancer

Icon Medical Oncologist, Dr Kong Hwai Loong recently featured in the The Straits Times March 23 2020 edition discussing potential cancer risks in your genes. Below, he shares further advice for people who have been diagnosed with a BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation.

There are a number of different genetic mutations that can play a role in the development of breast cancer. However the most common ones are known as BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations. While all men and women have the BRCA genes, in some people these genes are damaged and can significantly increase your risk of developing breast, ovarian, fallopian tube, peritoneal, pancreatic or prostate cancers.

How will this impact my family?

If you have received a positive result for the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation, you may be feeling overwhelmed with the knowledge that this can have implications on both you and your family. Your immediate family will be encouraged to undergo testing as well, as they may have also inherited the BRCA gene mutation. Your genetic counsellor will support you throughout this process and answer any of your questions.

How can I reduce my risk of cancer?

For people with the BRCA gene mutation that have not yet developed cancer, there are a number of options available that can assist in the prevention of high-risk cancers such as breast and ovarian cancer.

Your doctor may suggest that you undergo a preventive surgery such as the removal of your breasts and ovaries to reduce the risk of developing cancers in those organs. Ensuring you have a healthy lifestyle including a balanced diet, limited alcohol intake and regular exercise will also assist in mitigating your cancer risk.

You will also be encouraged to receive cancer screening, such as mammograms and MRI scans, more regularly than other people to identify any signs of cancer early and ensure you receive prompt treatment.

Other options include:

  • Taking certain medications to lower your risk of breast or ovarian cancer
  • Beginning yearly breast screening from 25 years of age
  • Receiving screening for ovarian cancer including a pelvic exam, transvaginal ultrasound and CA-125 blood test
  • Undergoing prostate cancer screening from 40 years of age

It’s important to talk to your doctor about the best option for you.

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