Hereditary Cancer Awareness Risk: Why you should know your risk

This week marks Heriditary Cancer Week. If you’ve been following 40 Now What you will know that last year I discovered that I had the genetic mutation of the BRCA1 gene, which means that I have a high lifetime risk or developing breast and ovarian cancer.

The last year has not been easy and has involved a lot of research, medical appointments, discussions with my support network and soul searching.

The honest truth is that a year down the line beyond having a surgery scheduled to have my fallopian tubes removed and having a good old check down there for any signs of cancerous tissue I am still not certain of my course action or any precise timelines of action.

But what is certain that I know that I am at greater risk, I am in the system and being monitored by some of the best professionals in the world, and I am being checked routinely. And that in itself is worth its weight in gold. I know I am incredibly lucky to have that knowledge, and often think about all the people who might also have this mutation, but do not know. Especially as we are now in our 40s and before we know it we’ll be in the age bracket where general cancer incidence rates rise steeply (from around age 55-59).

The role of genes in cancer

According to Cancer Research UK, our genes play a big role in our risk of cancer. It’s estimated up to 10% of all cancers diagnosed are linked to a genetic fault that can be passed from one generation to the next. Ovarian, breast, prostate, pancreatic and bowel are some of the cancer types you’re more likely to get if you carry a BRCA mutation or Lynch syndrome.

But despite the hereditary cancer risks, according to Target Ovarian Cancer’s latest research 75% of the general public have never heard of BRCA and 84% of people have never heard of Lynch syndrome. What’s more many are unaware that a family history of cancer could put them at risk of these genetic faults. It’s time to change that.

What can you do

Use Target Ovarian’s risk tool

Knowledge is power, and using the tool will help you understand your risk and what to do next. So take a few minutes to complete it here. It could change your life and help you take control.

Be mindful if you’re of Ashkenazi Jewish heritage

People of Ashkenazi Jewish descent have a 1 in 40 chance of carrying a BRCA mutation, making them 10 times as likely to carry a BRCA mutation as someone in the general population. Whether you’re a man or a woman, if you have BRCA1/2 mutation then there is a 50% chance of passing the mutation on to your children, whether they are boys or girls.

Check out Target Ovarian’s newly launched hub to give anyone with Ashkenazi Jewish heritage all the information and support they need – stories from those who’ve had to make difficult choices, important information about your risk and what do next, and videos to help you understand more about your risk.

Spread the word about hereditary cancer

Awareness is key here. I know just how important it is to know your status, and then be in the system and be duly monitored. By sharing this article, raising awareness or mentioning this to somebody today, you could be making a life-changing difference.

Useful links about hereditary cancer

BRCA & Lynch syndrome FAQ

Facing Our Risk website

Inherited genes and cancer types

NHS guide to predictive genetic tests for cancer

Have you heard BRCA or Lynch syndrome? Or have you ever had genetic testing for hereditary cancer?