What causes breast cancer, is it a genetic disease?

Acknowledging Genetic Counsellors

What is cancer

Before we get into understanding cancer, it’s important to understand about our bodies. Cells are the basic units that make up the human body. Everyday inside us, cells grow and divide to make new cells as we need them to perform basic functions like digesting food and utilising oxygen from air. Usually, cells die when they get too old or damaged. Then, new cells take their place. Cancer begins in people when their genetic changes interfere with this orderly process. In such individuals, cells start to grow uncontrollably. These cells forms a mass or a tumor in an affected area of the individuals body. But not all tumors are cancerous, people have lived with such tumors for years. Unfortunately cancerous tumor is malignant, meaning it can grow and spread to other parts of the body. It affects various functions of the body leading to unhealthy and life-threatening conditions.

What is breast cancer

Cancer can occur in any part of our body, breast cancer starts in the breast tissue. In breast cancer patients the cells usually form a tumor that can be felt as a lump or seen through medical imaging, such as mammograms and MRI. Breast cancer occurs almost entirely in women, but men can get breast cancer, too.

What causes breast cancer

If you have ever talked to a breast cancer survivor and ask them how did they get the disease? They may not have an answer, as all the medical attention is focused on treating the disease and saving the patient’s life. Studies suggest that the cause of breast cancer is linked to hormonal, lifestyle and environmental factors affecting a woman with a susceptible genetic risk. The breast cancer survivor that you may have known, may not have been through a genetic counselling or test. The patient could have taken better choices for healthy living, if the risk was known to her. Lot of grief to you and your family members can be avoided by opting for a simple genetic counselling session. It is important for you to understand that breast cancer occurs when some breast cells begin to grow uncontrollably. The immune system likely encounters and eliminates cancer cells on a daily basis. But cancer causing cells escape the immune surveillance, these cells divide more rapidly in an individual’s body. They continue to form, accumulate and form a lump or tumour. It can take several years for the cellular changes and tumour formation in your body to become visible and get detected in normal breast examination. Genetic tests can assess your risks profile to take preventive measures.

Are you at risk?

Risk factors for developing breast cancer include obesity, lack of physical exercise, drinking alcohol, hormone replacement therapy during menopause, exposure to ionizing radiation (x-rays), early age at first menstruation, having children late or not at all, older age, prior history of breast cancer and family history. About 5–10% of cases are due to genes inherited from a person’s parents. India is a country with many communities where there is high load of genetic disorders. It is recommended by experts to get a genetic counselling and test conducted before entering into life-events such as marriage and pregnancy planning – that also brings additional responsibilities to you.

What are the consequences of breast cancer for women?

Breast cancer is ranked number one cancer among Indian females. In a women population of 4000 at least one woman has the disease. Unfortunately about 12 women out of 1 Lakh population face death issues. In metro cities hectic work schedules and high number of patients for check-ups adds to the difficulty in availing healthcare. Women staying in smaller cities may not have access to start-of-the-art facilities and specialist physicians. In either case, the delay in identifying affected women aggravates their disease condition and makes the situation complex for them and their families.

What can you do?

Spread awareness so that every woman can take a proactive approach to their health. Self-care and care of immediate young and elderly dependents is required. You can take measures for early screening that identifies immediate signs and symptoms. For a better understanding of prolonged outcomes of your breast health, genetic tests can be helpful. It can help identify your risks of acquiring breast cancer based on personal history, family history and scientific validation. Certified genetic counsellors at truGeny are available on call or chat, to explain you about genetics and its link for reducing breast cancer risk.



Your Genes Matter. Take Charge.