Women who have a strong family history of breast cancer – but no genetic link for the disease – may not be accessing the services they need to safeguard their health.
This finding was the result of a University of Melbourne study led by Dr Louise Keogh of the Centre for Women's Health, Gender and Society.
Her team's research, which has been published in the journal Hereditary Cancer in Clinical Practice, found that there is "little consistency" in the way women who are thought to have a higher-than-average risk of contracting breast cancer due to family history manage their health.
"Depending on their family history, these women have up to a one in three chance of getting cancer, which is much higher than the population risk of one in 11," Dr Keogh explained.
The study examined 24 women who had at least one first or second-degree relative who was diagnosed with the disease before age 50, but were not identified as having the BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation gene.
Dr Keogh explained the women had several different risk management styles, ranging from a fatalistic "why bother?" approach to vigilant behaviour such as routine screening and self-examination.
"Because a genetic mutation has not been identified to explain the pattern of breast cancer within their family, the women I spoke to were often left to their own devices to manage their high risk – both the anxiety that it can provoke and in identifying appropriate ways to manage their risk," she said.
Most women, the study found, relied on a GP or an occasional specialist to help them manage their risk.
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