When should people have routine scans?

Hello all,

I wonder if anyone here can help me with a question!

I had a sister who sadly passed away 3 years ago from an agressive form of breast cancer. She was 36 when she passed, around a year after she was diagnosed.

We also have some history of other cancers in our family.

How/when do doctors decide that other family members should be monitored? I have a sister who is now also 36, and I will be into my 30s very soon. Should we be having regular checks, or do we need to wait for any signs we pick up before approaching a doctor?

We have no aunts/close female relatives who have had breast cancer apart from our sister, so is this why we have not been referred for yearly scans etc?

I have a feeling that the policy may be different for different areas of the country, but was looking for some clarification on this.

Many thanks in advance for your help on this.

Amy XXX

Hi Amy,
Really sorry about your sister.
I’ve just seen a geneticist due to strong family history of BC. You should see your GP who should refer you to a genetics clinic. They will look at your family history and decide if you are low, moderate or high risk. In my area if you’re high risk you get annual mammograms at 35, if you’re moderate risk you have mammograms fom 40. MRI’s are available in some areas but I think they’re quite difficult to get due to funding issues. Screening options for women in their 30’s aren’t great - mammograms aren’t that effective as our breasts our too dense (I’m 30). The genetics clinic may want to test any surviving relatives with cancer to see if they carry a fault in the BRCA1/2 gene, then if they test positive you and your sister can also be tested.
Hope this helps a little.
Zoe x x

Hi amy,

Sorry to hear you lost your sister to bc. I suggest you draw up a family tree of members who had cancer, the type and at what age, armed with this your GP may refer you to a genetics clinic who will assess your risk. As Zoe has pointed out if you are deemed to be at risk you will be offered breast screening but Mammograms do not always detect BRCA cancers. Cancers associated with BRCA mutations are breast, ovarian, prostate, pancreatic and more rarely gall bladder. Its highly possible there is no genetic link to your sisters cancer and it was just a case of bad luck, however I think you’re right to want screening in light of her getting it at a young age.

Best wishes xx

Hi Amy

You may find it useful to read the Breast Cancer Care factsheet on familial breast cancer as it includes information about screening when there is a family history:

You can read this on-line by using the following link :-

breastcancercare.org.uk/docs/familial_breast_cancer_updated_may_06_0.pdf

I hope you find this helpful.

Kind regards

Lucy
Facilitator

Hi Amy

I am so sorry you lost your sister to this awful disease too. I l am 33 and lost my sister in March age 35. She had the cancer about 18 months before her death.

I was unaware that I was high risk until my doctor updated my family history and the genetics people at hospital contacted me for their research as my dad’s mum had various cancers but didn’t have breast or ovarian, my dad’s sistert died of Ovarian cancer after getting it in her early 40’s. My sister got some blood sent away before she died and I discovered in september that we are both Brac1.

Firstly I wanted to emphasize that brac1 or 2 can be passed down from either your mum’s or dad’s side. Mine got passed down from my dad who has no cancer. Some doctors are misinforming people about that!!!

As a result I am having a double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery in 2 weeks 31st dec.I wanted to do this before starting a family as pregnancy and these gene mutations don’t seem to mix well.

I would look into your family cancer history and look out for anyone that has got cancer at an early age before 50. Look particularly at breast or ovarian cancer. If you find any go to your doctor and maybe get referred to a genetics specialist. If you find your area are rubbish see if you can go to another area/ Nottingham and Manchester are very good.

Not everyone wants to know if they have a gene fault but in my case I feel my sister may have saved my life.

Best of luck with it all

Katie xxxx

yes same story here only difference that the genetic dept in my case send me of for annual screening which is not always the best option for strong family history. Looking in hindsight I would have had prophylactic mastectomy if someone had told me my genetic status before getting BC. In my case getting a diagnosis and then living through it is far more difficult.

Although there is no family history of BC (both my parents died of other cancers) my doctor advised that my daughters should get themselves screened from ten years younger than my age when dx. I was dx at 44, so my daughters should get themselves screeened from 34 onwads.

I believe that a strong family history should mean that you get a routine scan but if worried I paid £40 for a mammogram locally. I don’t think that is too bad. £40 doesn’t get me a tank of petrol!! Worth doing.