Should you have genetic testing to assess your breast cancer risk?

For some women, breast cancer is the result of a specific genetic mutation. Most of the cases of breast cancer that are linked to a genetic mutation are caused by the BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations. Because of this, many women wonder if they should have genetic testing performed to determine if they have the mutations. Knowing that the mutations are present can help women take a more informed approach to preventive care. However, genetic testing is not right for all women—and in some cases, it can cause more problems than it solves. Here are some of the things to consider when you’re making your decision about genetic testing.

Do you have a family history of breast cancer?
Generally, genetic testing is not recommended for people who do not have a family history of breast cancer. It should be considered only if you have a family history of breast cancer, including family members who developed the disease at a young age and cases of breast cancer in men in the family.

These cases should have occurred in close family members—parents, siblings, children, grandparents, uncles, aunts, nieces, nephews, and first cousins. Breast cancer in more distant relatives is not usually considered to be a good indicator of the need for genetic testing.

Do you have a family history of other kinds of cancer?
As discussed in the video, there are some other forms of cancer that are also linked to gene mutations. These include:

  • Ovarian cancer
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Metastatic or aggressive prostate cancer

If close family members have experienced these diseases, talk to your physician about whether genetic testing could be right for you.

Are you prepared for all of the potential outcomes?
Having a gene mutation associated with breast cancer does not guarantee that you will get the disease, but it does put you in a position of having to make a decision about what steps to take next. Some people find the knowledge that they have a gene mutation more stressful than helpful.

Talk to your women’s services specialist at Regional Medical Center of San Jose to find out if genetic testing could be helpful for you. We offer comprehensive women’s health services and cancer care, using a variety of advanced screening and diagnostic tools. To learn more, call us at (888) 762-8881.

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