Genetic testing for breast cancer provides an opportunity for people to learn if their breast cancer or if a family history of breast cancer could be due to an inherited gene mutation. If so, this increases the risk for breast cancer.
This is both a complicated and controversial topic, so let’s look at 3 things to consider before completing genetic testing for breast cancer.
First Things First
Genetic testing is only recommended for men or women with a high risk of the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation. The test itself consists of a simple blood test.
Most men or women considering genetic testing for breast cancer have a close family history of cancer: breast, ovarian, or pancreatic plus several other detailed risk factors. A second reason would be a man or woman who has had breast cancer and wants to find out if they have the mutated gene that increases their risk for recurrence.
Some of the risk factors include the following:
- Two or more blood relatives like a sister, mother, aunt, cousin, or daughter who had breast or ovarian cancer.
- You have been diagnosed with breast cancer, and especially if was before menopause.
- You have had ovarian cancer and your relatives have had breast or ovarian cancer.
- You are related to someone with the BRCA gene mutation.
- You are of Ashkenazi Jewish descent, and you or your relatives have had breast or ovarian cancer.
- Your first step is to compile your family history and take it to a genetic counselor.
How Accurate and Helpful Are Genetic Test Results?
You can receive a positive, negative, or unsure result after genetic testing. They are not 100% accurate.
A negative result means that although you don’t have the gene mutation, you still have the same risk factors as the rest of the population. There is no guarantee that you will never get breast cancer.
If you receive a positive result for the gene mutation, you still have a 15 – 20% chance of NOT developing breast cancer. The gene may not have been inherited, but was sporadic. In addition, only 15 – 25% of inherited breast cancers are a result of the mutation.
Not all the affected genes are known at this time, so the test can only look for those genes already discovered.
What Will I Do with the Genetic Testing Results?
There are numerous options to consider if you receive a positive result. Look at prevention and treatment alternatives, and make sure to evaluate your overall health, age, race, diet, and environment before making any decisions about surgery.
- You can decide to do nothing.
- You can decide to take anti-estrogen drugs.
- You can decide to have the risk reducing surgery known as Preventative Bilateral Mastectomy where both breasts are removed. This procedure has shown to be 95% effective in reducing the risk of cancer, and reconstructive surgery can be performed at the same time if you so choose.
What Are the Benefits of Genetic Testing?
Once you have the results, you can be proactive and make informed decisions about your health. You may reduce the anxiety of not knowing your own risks while helping members of your family to be more informed.
You can also participate in research that may help to decrease deaths from breast cancer.
We have only scratched the surface of this complicated topic, which is why we encourage you to consult with Gainesville Women’s Center for Radiology before completing genetic testing for breast cancer. To schedule an appointment, please call (352) 331-0115 today.