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Let’s Talk Breast Cancer and Genetics

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Let’s Talk Breast Cancer and Genetics

Every October we celebrate Breast Cancer Awareness Month and every October 13th is recognized as Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness Day. During this time, companies, brands, and communities come together to raise awareness about this deadly disease. AFSPA is a proud participant in the effort to educate and support members who have or are at risk of developing breast cancer.  

With breast cancer being the second leading cause of cancer death in women, you should know that your family’s history can play a part in whether you’re at risk of developing it. Many families see multiple women, and some men become affected by breast cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, about 5% to 10% of breast cancer cases are thought to be hereditary, meaning that they result directly from gene changes (mutations) passed on from a parent. Those specific genes are called BRCA1 and BRCA2. Mutated versions of these genes can lead to abnormal cell growth, which can lead to cancer. The chances of either gene leading to breast cancer increases if other family members are affected. Other gene mutations that can lead to breast cancer include ATM, PALB2, and more 

Whether you have a family history of breast cancer or not, it is important to know ways you can lower your risk of developing it, which include:  

  • Changing your lifestyle and eating habits  
  • Risk-reducing surgery  
  • Getting enough exercise 
  • Not smoking and limiting your alcohol intake  
  • Having children and breastfeeding, if possible 


Breast cancer is commonly found in women over the age of 50, but it can also affect women under the age of 45. Even men can develop breast cancer, but the likelihood is much lower with a lifetime risk of about 1 in 833. 

If you have a strong family history of breast cancer, you should talk with your doctor about starting mammography screening, which can detect tumors before they can be felt. Your doctor could recommend that you have genetic counseling and/or genetic testing, which will help determine which gene mutations that you’ll need to be tested for.  

Knowing when to see a doctor can reduce your chances of developing breast cancer. While some people have no symptoms, others may experience:  

  • A change in the size or the shape of the breast 
  • Pain in any area of the breast 
  • Nipple discharge other than breast milk (including blood) 
  • A new lump in the breast or underarm 
  • Thickening or swelling of part of the breast 
  • Irritation or dimpling of breast skin 


A large percentage of early detection are detected by patients themselves during self-screening. According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation Inc., when caught in its earliest, localized stages, the5-year relative survival rate is 99%. If you are experiencing a symptom of breast cancer, don’t hesitate to see your doctor. Furthermore, AFSPA wants you to know that it’s okay to seek second opinions and advocate for yourself and what works for you.

How AFSPA Can Help  

You’re not in this fight alone, Foreign Service Benefit Plan (FSBP) members have access to the Cancer Support Program which is designed to provide education and support to members. For more information about this program, please call 800-593-2354, Monday-Friday from 6:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Mountain Standard Time (MST). 

Additionally, we offer TherapEase Cuisine, a nutritional program through Express Scripts Pharmacy, the Plan’s home delivery pharmacy. TherapEase Cuisine offers an easy-to-use-online program providing cancer patients access to nutritional information that follows the Academy of Nutritional and Dietetics guidelines for cancer nutrition. This nutritional program helps answer the question, “What should I be eating?” for those diagnosed with cancer. 

Simply visit, click on “Sign Up” and then enter your first name, last name, a full prescription number from one of your oncology medication bottles, and date of birth. Then, you create your free account and access online nutrition information. 

FSBP members who receive a breast cancer screening can earn a $25 wellness reward through our wellness rewards program. Learn more here. Members also receive full coverage for mammograms in accordance with the United States Preventive Services Task Force. FSBP will cover 100% of the plan allowance when seen by an in-network provider or any provider abroad.  

FSBPalso offers 3D breast tomosynthesis. 3D breast tomosynthesisis an imaging test that combines multiple breast x-rays to create a 3D picture of the breast.   

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