A genetic counselor has specialized training in medical genetics. They’ll use your medical and family history to evaluate your medical condition to help you determine whether you need to undergo genetic testing. Before you decide, the counselor will explain the limitations, benefits, and risks of genetic testing for you to make a well-informed decision.
A family and personal history of breast cancer increase your risk of developing the disease. Most women with a family history do not have the inherited gene that affects their risk. But still, the inherited gene mutation is likely to affect women with a strong history of breast cancer, especially if the family has a history of other diseases such as prostate, pancreatic, and ovarian cancer.
To undertake genetic counseling, you must have informed your doctor about a personal or family history of breast cancer, including:
- History of early onset of breast cancer in the family
- History of breast cancer in both breasts
- History of triple-negative (HER2, ER- and PR-) breast cancer
- Being of Ashkenazi origin
- History of breast cancer
BRCA1 and BRCA2 are the two common genes associated with hereditary breast cancer, and half of all inherited breast cancer cases have these genes.
Women with BRCA gene changes are at high risk of breast cancer and other cancers like ovarian and pancreatic cancer. Men with this gene are also at increased risk, but not as high as the risk in women. They are likely to develop other diseases, including pancreatic and prostate cancer.
Dr. Tower, Dr. Dabney and Dr. Goday are all able to offer genetic testing and counseling. They can discuss the whole process of genetic testing and the likely results to expect. This will help you decide whether to go forward with genetic testing. It is vital to understand the entire procedure and weigh your risks and benefits before taking these tests.
Genetic testing can help to develop your treatment plan. It involves taking a blood or saliva sample that will be sent to the lab to look for BRCA mutations depending on your situation. If your family has a history of BRCA mutation, your testing will focus on finding the specific BRCA mutation.
Another test might be recommended if you are of Ashkenazi Jewish descent, but if there’s no particular gene change, genetic testing will be done to look for multiple different mutations.
Your genetic expert will interpret the results and their implications to you and your family members. If you do test positive for BRCA mutation, your outcomes will affect your breast cancer treatment options.