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One in every nine women (about 11% of women) will be diagnosed with breast cancer at some point in her life. Breast cancer is the second most common type of cancer diagnosed among women — skin cancer tops the list. An average woman's risk of ovarian cancer is about 1% to 2% (about one in 70). Ovarian cancer is more difficult to detect than breast cancer and is much harder to treat because it tends to be found after it has spread. You are most likely to be at risk for inherited breast or ovarian cancer if you have a family history of one or both of these diseases. Meeting with a genetic counselor or a doctor trained in genetics will help you decide if genetic testing is right for you.
Breast cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells that can develop in one of several areas of the breast. A woman's risk of developing breast cancer increases with age; more than 3 out of 4 breast cancer cases occur in women over age 50. Other risk factors for breast cancer include:
Ovarian cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in the ovaries. Ovarian cancer often does not cause any symptoms until it has spread beyond the ovary. Doctors have a hard time detecting the disease during a pelvic exam before this late stage. The chances of developing ovarian cancer also increase with age. Most ovarian cancers occur in women over age 50. The highest risk is in women over 60. Women who have never had children are more likely to develop ovarian cancer, too.
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