Breast Cancer and the Genes Behind it

Before we delve into the topic of breast cancer and the genes behind it, let’s first brush up on our basics, what is cancer? Cancer is the name given to a collection of related diseases. In all types of cancer, some of the body’s cells begin to divide without stopping and spread into surrounding tissues.It can start almost anywhere in the human body, which is made up of trillions of cells. Normally, human cells grow and divide to form new cells as the body needs them. When cells grow old or become damaged, they die, and new cells take their place.When cancer develops, however, this orderly process breaks down. As cells become more and more abnormal, old or damaged cells survive when they should die, and new cells form when they are not needed. These extra cells can divide without stopping and may form growths called tumors.


Now that we know what exactly cancer is, let’s discuss breast cancer, as we can figure from the name, the majority of this cancer’s victims are females, with their risk of getting it increasing with age. One in eleven women gets breast cancer at some point in their lives. While there are quite a lot of factors which increase the chances of a lady getting breast cancer, One that increases the chances the most is inheriting it via your parents. Breast cancer caused by inheriting a changed gene is called hereditary cancer. We all inherit a set of genes from each of our parents. Sometimes there’s a change (called a mutation) in one copy of a gene which stops that gene from working properly.

There are several genes for which inherited changes may be involved in the development of both breast and ovarian cancer. These are genes which normally control cell growth and prevent a woman getting breast or ovarian cancer. Some of these are genes that you may have heard are BRCA1 and BRCA2. Their names come from the abbreviation of ‘breast cancer 1’ and ‘breast cancer 2’. Both men and women can inherit a change in these genes.If a woman has inherited a change in one of these genes, she has a higher chance of breast or ovarian cancer but that doesn’t mean she’s certain to get cancer. Less than 5% of all breast and ovarian cancers can be explained by an inherited gene change in BRCA1 or BRCA2.


Like all cancers, if found early, it can be promptly treated. Any change in the size or shape of the breast, a lump in or close to the breast,any change in the nipple, such as a discharge

What exactly are BCRA1 and BCRA2? BRCA1 and BRCA2 are human genes that produce tumor suppressor proteins. These proteins help repair damaged DNA and, therefore, play a role in ensuring the stability of the cell’s genetic material. When either of these genes is mutated or altered, such that its protein product either is not made or does not function correctly, DNA damage may not be repaired properly. As a result, cells are more likely to develop additional genetic alterations that can lead to cancer.

Abnormal BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes may account for up to 10% of all breast cancers or 1 out of every 10 cases.


Are genetic tests available to detect BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations?

Yes. Several different tests are available, including tests that look for a known mutation in one of the genes (i.e., a mutation that has already been identified in another family member) and tests that check for all possible mutations in both genes. DNA (from a blood or saliva sample) is needed for mutation testing. The sample is sent to a laboratory for analysis. It usually takes about a month to get the test results.

As the saying goes, “Knowledge is power” And the saying is especially true in this case, for you now hold the power to potentially cure yourself of this cancer if you treat it at the right time. Regular tests, along with a healthy lifestyle can ensure that your risk of getting this cancer is at a minimum.  


Breast Cancer and the Genes Behind it