Question: If a woman has a family history of breast cancer what tests does she need?
A family history increases a woman’s risk but by no means guarantees that she will get breast cancer.
In most cases the history should be seen as a signpost; a warning that could save her life-by alerting her to the need for early screening tests
If a woman has a personal or family history of breast cancer she should ask her doctor when she should start having mammograms.
Although the general recommendation from the American Cancer Society is that a woman start at 40 then get them every two years to 50 then every year thereafter, family history may require the tests begin sooner and be done more frequently.
She should also ask her doctor if she should get blood tests for the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes.
These genes increase the risk of breast and ovarian cancer far more than a simple family history.
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Women with either or both of those genes have to start screening tests as early as possible and may have to take other protective steps during the course of their lives.
Finally, regardless of history all women should do self breast exams once a month, at the same time each month, as hormonal changes may affect breast size and consistency.
Women know their bodies best and they may be the first to pick up a change