Family History Does Not Worsen Breast Cancer Survival Rates

A recent study shows breast cancer outcomes are not affected by family history

Family History Does Not Worsen Breast Cancer Survival Rates

By Danielle Cronquist Published at March 8 Views 5,978

According to the Susan G. Komen foundation, only about 13 percent of women who are diagnosed with breast cancer have a first-degree female relative (mother, sister, or daughter) who has or had breast cancer. But even though having a first-degree female relative with a breast cancer history increases your risk of also developing the disease, research suggests that it does not have any effect on your survival rate.

Those who have a breast cancer diagnosis and a family history of breast cancer often worry that their outlook will be worse, but a British study from the University of Southampton that was published in the British Journal of Surgery claims that family history will not worsen chances of survival or recurrence, specifically for women under 40.

The study followed 3,000 women who were treated for breast cancer between 2000 and 2008 and treated at 127 different UK hospitals. Each woman had her tumor’s characteristics recorded and was also asked about family history of breast cancer and ovarian cancer (which can also increase breast cancer risk). About 1/3 of the women involved in the study reported having at least 1 close relative with a history of either breast or ovarian cancer.

After 5 years, the researchers followed up on each woman’s cancer progression and recurrence. Of those without a family history of the breast or ovarian cancer, 75 percent were still cancer free, and of those with a family history, 77 percent were cancer free. So, there was no significant difference between the women with and without a family history of breast or ovarian cancer.

Having a first-degree family member with breast or ovarian cancer does increase your risk for developing one of the diseases, but it can at least be comforting to know that family history will not affect the outcome of the disease. The National Breast Cancer Foundation recommends starting breast imaging 10 years before the age of your relative’s diagnosis to hopefully catch breast cancer in its early stages if you do have the disease, and help your outcome.

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