Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer (HBOC) Cheat Sheet

In the United States, there are more than 207,000 patients diagnosed with breast cancer and more than 21,000 patients diagnosed with ovarian cancer annually. Between five 5-10% of breast and ovarian cancer patients have a hereditary form of cancer (HBOC) mostly due to mutations in either the BRCA-1 or BRCA-2 gene. 

Risk Factors:

  • I am younger than 50 and diagnosed with breast cancer

  • My breast cancer is in both breasts

  • My breast cancer returned years after the first diagnosis

  • I have breast cancer and my ethnicity is Ashkenazi Jewish

  • I am diagnosed with ovarian cancer

  • I don’t have cancer but have multiple breast and/or ovarian cancers on the same side of my family

  • I don’t have cancer but I have breast or ovarian cancers in the family and I am Ashkenazi Jewish

  • I have male breast cancer in the family

Warning Signs and Symptoms:

A personal or family history of young breast cancer or ovarian cancer. Ethnicity should also be taken into account.

If you have risk factors make an appointment right away with a trained healthcare professional familiar with HBOC. Included in your discussion learn about BRCA testing, find out if you are a candidate. If you are, discuss what it means and what it doesn’t, learn the risks and benefits for the prevention and diagnosis of cancer, the limitations of testing, possible treatment options including diagnostics, medications and risk reducing surgeries. Ask about the possible social and psychological impact and how testing may affect on your family.

Breast Cancer symptoms include:

  • A lump under the arm, above the collarbone, or in the breast that remains for more than a week

  • Nipple discharge

  • Inversion of the nipple or other changes to the nipple

  • Changes to the skin of the breast -dimpling, thickening or ulceration

  • Pain or tenderness of the nipple that does not go away

If you find any changes in your breasts or armpits, even if a recent mammogram came back normal, make an appointment with your healthcare professional right away. You should discuss: Clinical breast exam, mammography, ultrasound, MRI, Biopsy and follow-up appointments.

Ovarian Cancer symptoms include:

  • Bloating

  • Pelvic or abdominal pain, discomfort or swelling

  • Difficulty eating or feeling full quickly

  • Urinary symptoms including painful, frequent, or burning on urination that is not from a urinary tract infection

    If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms for more than two weeks make an appointment with your healthcare professional right away. You should discuss: Recto-pelvic exam, Trans-vaginal Ultrasound with color Doppler study, a CA 125 Blood Test and follow-up appointments.

Contact The National Women’s Health Information Center for information on health insurance coverage or free clinics. Visit or call 1-800-994-9662.


Remember, early detection equals survival!


This information was provided by the American Cancer Society,


This information was reviewed by the Cancer Schmancer Medical Advisory Board.