Breast cancer family history

Breast Cancer Family Clinic

A Breast Cancer Family Clinic commenced operation in 1998 and was the first of its kind to be established in Queensland. The Clinic provides a free service for women with a strong family history of breast cancer. It offers advice, counselling, recommendations regarding management options and on-going screening surveillance programs.

There is no cost to be part of the Breast Cancer Family Clinic which is located at the BreastScreen Queensland Brisbane Northside Service at 534 Hamilton Road, Chermside.

Who can attend?

Women with a strong family history of breast cancer aged 30-59 years, who meet the criteria for Risk Category 3 (Potentially High Risk) according to the Cancer Australia (National Breast and Ovarian Cancer Centre) guidelines 1.

Cancer Australia has classified women into three categories with the highest potential risk group (Category 3) including women having the following features:

  • Two first degree or second degree relatives on one side of the family diagnosed with breast or ovarian cancer plus one or more of the following features on the same side of the family:
    • additional relative(s) with breast or ovarian cancer
    • breast cancer diagnosed before the age of 40
    • bilateral breast cancer
    • breast and ovarian cancer in the same women
    • Jewish ancestry
    • breast cancer in a male relative
  • One first degree or second degree relative diagnosed with breast cancer at age 45 or younger plus another first degree or second degree relative on the same side of the family with sarcoma (bone / soft tissue) at age 45 or younger.
  • Member of a family in which the presence of a high risk breast cancer gene mutation has been established.
  • Women who are at potentially high risk of ovarian cancer

This High Risk group is <1% of the female population.

Women must be referred by their GP or Medical Specialist and the Clinic accepts referrals from anywhere in Queensland.

The role of the Breast Cancer Family Clinic

Women who attend the Breast Cancer Family Clinic will be offered the following free services:

  • Documentation of the family tree.
  • A personal risk assessment.
  • Recommendations will be made regarding an appropriate multi-modality breast screening program tailored for the individual woman at risk.
  • Suggestions regarding lifestyle modifications.
  • The option of undertaking formal genetic testing within the family will be discussed and referral to Genetic Health Queensland will be offered.
  • The options of preventative surgery including preventative mastectomy may be considered and referral to appropriate surgical and gynaecological services may be offered.

Contact details

Breast Cancer Family Clinic

BreastScreen Queensland Brisbane Northside Service
534 Hamilton Road
Chermside QLD 4032

Postal Address: PO Box 227, Virginia Business Centre, Virginia, QLD 4014
Phone: 3350 7425 or 3305 7419
Fax: 3350 5102

GP referral process

Access to the Breast Cancer Family Clinic is by referral only from a registered medical practitioner or Genetic Health Queensland. Referrals can either be faxed or posted.

Click on Breast Cancer Family Clinic GP referral form to print and provide a copy to your patient.

Breast cancer and family history

Many women have someone in their family who has had breast cancer; this can happen by chance, as breast cancer is a common disease.

Family history becomes more important when there are more first degree relatives with breast cancer on the same side of the family, especially if the cancer occurs at an early age.

Most women will not develop breast cancer, even if they have a close relative with breast cancer.

Sometimes, breast cancer can be caused by a fault in a gene that can be passed within families from one generation to another. These gene faults (mutations) can be inherited from either the mother’s or father’s side of the family. It is thought that 5-10% of all breast cancer cases are caused by an inherited gene fault.

Obviously, the greater the number of members of a family with breast cancer, the greater the risk of there being a gene mutation existing within that family, resulting in an increased cancer predisposition.

Additionally, the risk of there being an abnormal gene within a family is higher if those affected members developed breast cancer when aged 40 years or younger.

Can the risk be classified?

By recording the details the family, relatives and affected family members in a family tree format, individual members of the family can be assessed in terms of their degree of risk of developing breast cancer.

An individual’s risk of breast cancer will depend on the number of first degree relatives (parents, siblings and children), and second degree relatives (aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews and grandparents on both sides of the family), who have been affected by the disease.

For more information on the Cancer Australia (National Breast and Ovarian Cancer Centre) guidelines visit

The genes involved in breast cancer development

In recent years several genes have been discovered which are associated with an increased risk of breast cancer.

Two genes in particular, have been identified. BRCA1 and BRCA2, which are thought to be responsible for at least three-quarters of familial types of breast cancer.

It has been estimated that approximately one in 1000 people in the community may carry a mutation of the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes. 1

Family members who are carriers of a mutated gene of either the BRCA1 or BRCA2 type are estimated to have a 40 - 80 % lifetime risk of developing breast cancer. 1

BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutation carriers additionally have a 10 – 60% lifetime risk of developing ovarian cancer. 1



1. Advice about familial aspects of breast cancer and epithelial ovarian cancer: a guide for health professionals. December 2010. National Breast and Ovarian Cancer Centre. Available from: (Accessed January 2014)

Last reviewed 04 May 2017 Last updated 04 May 2017


First degree relatives (parents, siblings, children)

Second degree relatives (aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, grandparents)