Between 5% and 10% of breast cancer cases are thought to be hereditary, meaning the disease is often a result of gene defects. Breast cancer related to genes is most common in families who have multiple members with the disease.
BRCA1 and BRCA2 are the most common cause of hereditary breast cancer. If you have inherited BRCA1 or BRCA2, you have a higher risk of developing breast cancer during your lifetime. Breast cancers linked to these mutations occur more often in younger women. These inherited mutations also increase the risk of developing other cancers, particularly ovarian cancer.
Who should have genetic testing?
A genetic test is available to check for the mutations in BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes. Testing is accomplished by taking a blood or saliva sample. Test results may help you make decisions about how to reduce your cancer risk; however, there are no standard criteria for who should be tested. In addition to a family history of breast or ovarian cancer, you may want to think about genetic testing if you have breast or ovarian cancer and a family member with the disease or if you have a blood relative with the harmful mutation.
Because increased risk of cancer, women with a family history should talk with their doctor at an early age to determine if genetic testing is appropriate. Counseling can help you understand whether testing is appropriate for you. You should also check your insurance coverage as the cost for testing ranges from several hundred to several thousand dollars, and your out-of-pocket cost will depend upon your insurance policy.
To learn more about genetic testing and counseling at the MaryEllen Locher Breast Center, call (423) 495-6744.