Family history

Because breast cancer is so common, many families will have one or more members who have suffered from it. This only significantly increases the risk of developing the disease if it arose in a first degree relative – mother, sister or daughter and depends on age at diagnosis.

Cancer family clinics exist where a woman can be referred by her GP or hospital consultant for specialist advice.

This might be suggested for a woman who has had one first degree relative diagnosed with breast cancer before the age of 40, or two first degree relatives before the age of 60, or three first degree relatives at any age. Gene testing can indicate the likelihood of developing breast cancer, but less than 5 per cent of breast cancers are associated with the abnormal gene.