high risk breast cancer
do I need genetic testing?
by Jamal Ross
There are women and men who are at increased risk for breast cancer. In this group, genetic testing for the BRCA mutation should be a consideration. In this way, other cancers caused by the BRCA mutation can be detected earlier and family members can be empowered to know their cancer risk as well. If you have been diagnosed with breast cancer, you doctor will tell you of you need genetic testing. But for those who are have not been diagnosed with breast cancer, there are some clues you can use to help determine of you need genetic testing.
If you have not be diagnosed with breast cancer, there are some details of your family history you can use to help determine if you would need genetic testing. First, if you have a family member that is known to have a BRCA gene mutation, you should be tested for this gene as well. Also, if there are 2 or more members your immediate family (parents, siblings or children) that had breast cancer before the age of 50, you should be tested for the BRCA gene. Furthermore, if you an immediate family member that has cancer in both breasts, you should also be tested. If you have any family member that has both breast and ovarian cancer, this should also be a consideration for genetic testing. Finally, if any of the males in your family have breast cancer, BRCA testing should be considered.
When searching your family history, breast cancer is not the only disease that should have your attention. The BRCA mutation is also found in ovarian, pancreatic and prostate cancer. As a matter of fact, if you have 3 or more family members with breast, ovarian, pancreatic or aggressive prostate cancer on the same side of the family, you should also be tested for the BRCA mutation. Importantly, woman of Ashkenazi, Eastern European, Jewish heritage are at increased risk for breast and ovarian cancer and should be tested for the BRCA mutation if there is a single immediate family member with breast cancer.
In all, a detailed family history is essential in determining your risk for breast cancer and need for genetic testing. There are also other considerations that should be given if more distant relative have breast cancer. Therefore, if you have further questions regarding you risk for breast cancer and if genetic testing is right you, speak with your doctor.
Breast Cancer Series
1. National Comprehensive Cancer Network. NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology. Genetic/ Familial High-Risk Assessment: Breast, Ovarian, and Pancreatic.