10 Breast cancer myths

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Mother had cancer

"If your mother developed breast cancer after menopause, that doesn't increase your risk."

You're still at risk. However, the risk would be even higher if your mother had developed the disease when she was younger. Here's why: When a woman inherits a mutation in the breast-cancer gene, most doctors agree that the disease will probably emerge before menopause (if she develops it -- and not all do). That's why, if your mother had early breast cancer, you have twice the average risk of developing it.

If your mother gets breast cancer after menopause, the chance that her disease has a genetic component is reduced. Still, in a small percentage of cases, postmenopausal breast cancers do have genetic roots. So, even if your mother's late-onset breast cancer is the only known case in your family, your own risk of developing the disease is 1.4 times higher than average.

The bottom line: Tell your doctor about family members with breast and other cancers -- no matter when the disease was diagnosed. She may recommend having a baseline mammogram in your twenties or thirties, with follow-up tests every year.

Continued on page 4:  Get tested


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