4 Generations of Breast Cancer

6:34 PM, Apr 19, 2011   |    comments
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Ruthie Johnson

Columbia, SC (WLTX) -- Simply being a woman is the main risk factor for developing breast cancer.

According to the American Cancer Society, about 5% to 10% of breast cancer cases are thought to be hereditary, resulting directly from gene defects called mutations inherited from a parent.

Ruthie Johnson of Hopkins knows all too well what it means to have a family history of breast cancer.

"My great grandmother died of breast cancer, my grandmother died of breast cancer, my mother has breast cancer, my sister has breast cancer and all of this is on my mother's side and two aunts died of breast cancer," Johnson said.

Breast cancer risk is higher among women whose close blood relatives have this disease. Having one first-degree relative (mother, sister, or daughter) with breast cancer approximately doubles a woman's risk. Having two first-degree relatives increases her risk about three fold.

A change in physicians is what led Johnson to a different center for her mammogram.  When they tested her they noticed something that appeared concerning.

Johnson says she will never forget the call that changed her life. "I think that was the roughest part for me. Hearing it for the first time. Although, I felt that it was breast cancer."

Doctors found Johnson's cancer through a mammogram.  It was borderline stage two but would not have been detected through a self breast exam.  She is a true believer that early detection does save lives.

White women are slightly more likely to develop breast cancer than are African-American women. African-American women are more likely to die of this cancer. At least part of this seems to be because African-American women tend to have more aggressive tumors, although why this is the case is not known.  

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