Over the past several decades, scientists have become more knowledgeable about the relationship between our genetic structure and relative risk of various diseases, like breast cancer. Indeed, just last summer, scientists at The University of Melbourne and Cancer Council Victoria, a nonprofit which works to reduce the impact of cancer in Victoria, British Columbia, confirmed in a study that individuals with several rare genetic changes have a high risk of developing breast cancer.
Through a study that involved around 200,000 participants in breast, ovarian, and prostate cancer studies, scientists discovered that mutations in the PALB2 and ATM genes increase the risk of breast cancer. The risks are similar to those created by the BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations, which have been known to increase the risk of breast cancer since the 1990s.
What this means:
Genetic testing like this has had an enormous effect on how we treat breast cancer. Women can now have their genome tested to see if they have one of these potentially high breast cancer risk mutations, and then they can make an evidence-based pre-cancer treatment plan. This might involve something as simple as doing regular self-examinations. Or, it might involve a more extreme decision — like choosing to have a double mastectomy to prevent the breast cancer from ever appearing.
Of course, genetic testing is a new technology, and scientists and doctors are just learning how this revolutionary knowledge affects breast cancer patients. There is still much to learn. But a breakthrough like this is a big step in the right direction.
How it affects us:
With more women choosing to have preventative mastectomies because of genetic testing, our work at the AiRS Foundation is more important than ever. It’s essential that women have the option of reconstruction after a mastectomy so that they have the ability to heal fully and feel whole again.
Want to help us? We rely on grants and donations from individuals like you to ensure every woman can receive the reconstructive services they need! Consider making a donation today — you will be changing the life of a woman in need (http://airsfoundation.org/make-a-difference/give/).