Unfortunately sisters of women with breast cancer have higher risk of getting same cancer forever – higher than average risk of breast cancer. This increased breast cancer risk lasts a lifetime for breast cancer sisters. But only about 13% of women diagnosed have a first-degree female relative (mother, sister or daughter) with breast cancer. Women who have one first-degree female relative with breast cancer have almost twice the risk of a woman without a family history. If women have more than one first-degree female relative with a history of breast cancer, risks are about 3-4 times higher
In general, the younger the relative was when she was diagnosed with breast cancer, the greater are chances of getting breast cancer. It was noted that women whose mothers were diagnosed with breast cancer before age 40, have about twice the risk of a woman without a family history. For women whose mothers were diagnosed at older age, the increase of risks is not so high.
Some experts believe that sisters of women diagnosed with breast cancer should be considered at higher risk only when they were close to age when her sister was diagnosed. According to research, sisters have the highest risk between ages 20 and 40. The amount of increased risk changed over time:
Between ages 20 – 40, sisters of women diagnosed with breast cancer have about 6-7 times higher than average risk of breast cancer in population;
After age 50, breast cancer risks drop to about double the average risk of breast cancer in population.
Breast cancer sisters diagnosed weeks apart
Story comes from Salt Lake City (capital of U.S. state of Utah). Two sisters grew up in the same house, went to the same school, worked together in the same company and traveled together side by side during many years. And now they are visiting the same hospital every 3 weeks – sitting together in the same room and chatting while receiving chemotherapy for hours.
Breast cancer sisters
Two sisters Annette Page (36) and Sharee Page (34) were diagnosed with breast cancer within 2-3 weeks of each other. What a coincidence?! Doctors said they have the BRCA2 gene – the inherited mutation that puts sisters at greater risk for breast cancer and ovarian cancer.
First Annette Page noted the large lump in her left breast and she was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer. It was warning for Sharee Page and she went to doctor for check up – unfortunately the same doctor diagnosed stage 2 breast cancer. If Annette wouldn’t have breast cancer, most probably Sharee wouldn’t think about breast cancer screening at 34.
Every few weeks mother drive sisters to the hospital for long chemotherapy sessions. After chemo sisters experience very similar side effects including nausea, bloody noses, neuropathy and headaches. Sisters’ bodies react to chemo drugs in a nearly synchronized fashion. Annette and Sharee help each other get through the especially difficult days.
“Who gets to go through something so hard with their best friend, their sister? It’s nice to know that someone knows exactly what you’re going through”
Susan Page (mother of sisters) is a survivor of throat and mouth cancer – she also has the BRCA2 gene. What a tragedy for mother to witness both daughters suffering from breast cancer.
Future treatment plans and survival strategies could be different for sisters because Annette’s cancer has spread to her lymph nodes, so unlike her sister, she will have to undergo radiation therapy next.
If your sister has been diagnosed with breast cancer, it would mean starting breast cancer screening before the usual recommended age of 40.
Breast cancer screening could include ultrasound, MRI, mammography as well as genetic testing for abnormal breast cancer genes.
It is important to know that family history of certain types of cancer can increase your risk of breast cancer. History of breast cancer in a close male relative (father, brother or uncle) increases your risk of breast cancer. History of prostate cancer in one or more first-degree relatives (father or brother) may also increase women risks of breast cancer, especially if the prostate cancer was found at a young age.
Disclaimer: It is strongly recommended to consult your doctor for professional advice. Above mentioned information and recommendations are just general and should be adapted to each person according to personal health indicators and status.