What is a breast cancer previvor?
A breast cancer previvor is a person who has a likelihood of developing breast cancer but has not had the disease. This includes people who have:
- Tested positive for high-risk inherited cancer mutation such as BRCA1 or BRCA2
- Have a strong family history of breast cancer, but have not tested positive for any known inherited genetic mutations suggesting a high risk of cancer
The term previvor comes from a group called FORCE. FORCE wanted to create a term for people who have a high predisposition to developing cancer but haven’t been diagnosed with cancer. Predisposition to a disease, often due to a known high-risk genetic mutation, means an increased likelihood of developing the disease. Previvor combines the words predisposition and survivor. Previvors had been called unaffected carriers before this, but some people didn’t think that term was the best way to describe themselves and the unique issues they face.
Each year, during National Hereditary Cancer Week, National Previvor Day honors people who identify as previvors. As a commemoration and celebration of previvors, a pink and teal previvor ribbon was created. Visit FORCE to learn more about National Previvor Day and to find out this year’s dates.
If you’re a breast cancer previvor, it’s normal to have concerns about how high risk may affect your future. It may mean difficult decisions to make about what, if any, preventive actions you want to take. These options include undergoing frequent screening, taking medicines, and having surgery to reduce the chances of developing breast cancer.
Discovering you’re a breast cancer previvor can also impact family and other relationships. Whether it’s about you or another family member, this news can feel complicated. Learning that a blood relative has tested positive for a high-risk mutation or realizing there’s a strong family history of cancer (even without a known mutation) can bring up many different feelings and uncertainties.