BRCA Gene Mutation, Family History and Breast Cancer Risk

Genetic Counseling Often Appropriate for Patients with Significant Family History

With the recent publicity surrounding Angelina Jolie’s decision to undergo a preventative bilateral mastectomy after discovering she has a BRCA1 mutation, many women are asking about their risk for breast cancer. Most breast cancer diagnoses happen by chance and are not due to a gene mutation being passed down in the family. 

However, for the 5-10% of breast cancer diagnoses that are the result of an inherited gene mutation, the majority are due to a mutation in either the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes. Women who have a mutation in either of these genes are at increased risk for specific types of cancer such as breast and ovarian cancer. 

Learn more about BRCA1/BRCA2 Mutation with our frequently asked questions>>

In collaboration with Rocky Mountain Cancer Centers, Sky Ridge Medical Center offers a high-risk breast cancer clinic for women concerned about their risk for breast cancer due to a significant family history of breast cancer. Women referred to the high-risk breast cancer clinic meet with a genetic counselor to discuss possible breast cancer risk reduction options based on an individualized risk assessment.

Women who are interested in meeting with a genetic counselor should first speak with their physician to determine if genetic counseling is appropriate for them. Please visit Rocky Mountain Cancer Centers for more information or call 303-925-0700 to make an appointment.

A Message from Our Breast Surgeon, Dr. Joyce Moore 

Many people have asked me my thoughts on Angelina Jolie's decision to have a double mastectomy.  I think it is medically sound.  We recommend bilateral mastectomies as one choice for risk reduction in women who are BRCA positive.  It is the most effective strategy to reduce risk.  It reduces risk by 90%.  The other options are hormone blocking to reduce risk by approximately 50% or close follow-up with no risk reduction.  I think it was refreshing that a celebrity could be so open about her choice.  It is especially helpful to see someone who makes her living in a body conscious profession to publicly discuss her choice.  No one knew she had the mastectomies so clearly her body was still perceived well.

I believe this can be helpful for any women who is struggling with body image issues when faced with a mastectomy.  It is important for patients faced with this choice to hear someone else say that being alive for her children and family far outweighs saving breast tissue when it can be potentially deadly.  I believe the choice to remove one's breast tissue is a very difficult and highly personal choice, but one we can discuss openly and candidly.  For those who do not choose this route, then other options are available as previously noted.