Dear OncoLink "Ask The Experts,"
My mother died of breast cancer and secondary bone cancer in 1971, approximately a year after giving birth to my brother. She was 42. Her cancer was diagnosed 3 months after his birth. I am 40 and have 8-year-old twin girls. I have just discovered that I am pregnant, and am concerned about my increased risk of developing breast cancer due to my family history - my maternal grandmother also developed breast cancer, but not until her late 70's. Am I taking an unnecessary risk in continuing with the pregnancy?
Angela DeMichele, M.D., MSCE, Assistant Professor of Medicine and Epidemiology at the University of Pennsylvania and Senior Scholar in the Center for Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, responds:
There is no reason to be concerned that your mother's breast cancer was connected to the pregnancy - or that your own pregnancy at a similar age would predispose you to getting breast cancer.
However, for anyone with a strong family history, such as a mother with breast cancer diagnosed at less than 50 years of age, genetic counseling should be considered once the pregnancy is complete. If genetic testing reveals that a woman has inherited a predisposing mutation, and is finished child-bearing, oopherectomy would be advised. One example of a genetic counseling resource is CREP. Find a program or genetic counselor in your area.
There is absolutely no reason to terminate this pregnancy at this point. However, all women should be sure to have breast exams during their obstetrics visits throughout pregnancy.