Health recommendations may vary slightly, depending on the region.
Early screening is recommended to catch cancer early, when it's most treatable. This includes breast and ovarian cancer screening from the age of 25 and prostate cancer screening from the age of 40. Depending on the mutation carried, other types of cancer screening may also be recommended.
Chemoprevention In some cases, chemoprevention may be recommended, usually in the form of tamoxifen or a similar drug that reduces estrogen. Oral contraceptives may be recommended to reduce ovarian cancer risk.
Preventative Surgery The method known to reduce cancer risk the most is preventative surgery, in the form of double-mastectomy and ovary/fallopian tube removal.
Hereditary cancer is diagnosed much more often in affected families.
Hereditary cancer is diagnosed at younger ages.
Hereditary cancer is more aggressive, making it harder to treat.
The risky genes that cause hereditary cancer can be passed to children.
Hereditary cancer has a higher rate of recurrence.
There is a higher chance of a second primary hereditary cancer.
Hereditary cancer is more prevalent in certain ethnic groups, such as the Ashkenazi Jewish.
Hereditary cancer is not well-funded. This has resulted in a lack of awareness, specialized services and resources.
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Lifestyle ChangesThere is increasing evidence to show that positive lifestyle changes, in the form of increased exercise and healthy eating, reduce cancer risk.
We all carry the same genes. Some of those genes are responsible for cell division in certain areas of our bodies. Risky gene mutations greatly affect the carrier's ability to ward off or fightbreast, ovarian and prostatecancer. Depending on the mutation carried, a person may also be at slightly higher risk of some other types of cancer.
HEREDITARY CANCER gene mutations can pass to children
ABOUT THE CAUSE
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About 5-10% of breast and prostate cancer and 10-15% of ovarian cancer is thought to be hereditary.
Up to 1/2 million Canadians living today have been or will be diagnosed with hereditary breast, ovarian or prostate cancer. To put this in perspective, 3-5 times more people carry risky genes than have multiple sclerosis.
hereditary cancer is diagnosed far more often
Put insurance policies in place BEFORE genetic testing Although Canada's Genetic Privacy Bill S-201 has been passed, it has not yet been adopted as law. It is advisable to put life and disability policies in place, or check existing policies to ensure there are no barriers to obtaining coverage.
Cautions regarding internet genetic testing services It is important to know that government-insured genetic testing is no longer the only option. Today, there are many services available that claim to test for HBOC syndrome gene mutations, but all tests are not created equal. Learn more in the links below or contact us for more information.
What is good for the goose is not always good for the gander Many of the health recommendations regarding breast, ovarian and prostate cancer are based on general population research. Of the little targeted hereditary cancer research that does exist,key findings reveal life-saving differences between recommendations for the general population and for risky gene carriers. A glaring example is pregnancy; general population research supports pregnancy as a protective factor, while hereditary cancer researchers have found evidence that pregnancy is a cancer risk factor for carriers. It is important that you choose a medical professional who is well-educated in HBOC syndrome to ensure the best possible care and learn how to become your own best advocate.
Unsupportive family and friends The first time many people heard of hereditary cancer was through Angelina Jolie's preventative double-mastectomy and later ovary removal. Others first heard through Melissa Ethridge's breast cancer diagnosis and attack regarding Angelina's choices. Both women dealt with their health issues very differently and that, combined with a general lack of public knowledge about hereditary cancer, created much controversy and many uneducated opinions on the matter. Families and friends may not always be understanding of the tough choices that carriers make. It may be helpful to connect with others in the same situation to reduce the isolation and find the support needed.
Limited access to specialized services Know that wait times to get into a high risk clinic or other specialized service may be lengthy, due to the lack of funding for those services. This does not mean a prospective or confirmed carrier must wait for genetic testing, screening or to get things rolling for preventative surgery. There are now affordable genetic services available that your family doctor to can order online. You can also ask your doctor to facilitate any screening and specialist appointments.
Fear This is the greatest enemy for prospective and confirmed carriers, but ignoring a situation won't make it go away. Get help, get connected, get healthy.