Genetic Testing

Early detection is key in the fight against breast cancer, and many women are testing to see their risk level of developing cancer.

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Genetic testing is a method of detecting whether a person is at risk for being diagnosed with cancer later in life and, together with regular preventive measures, such as mammograms, can lead to an early discovery of breast cancer.

Woman’s offers genetic testing for women interested in knowing their risk level of developing breast cancer. Our counselors work together with the woman and her doctor throughout the entire process of testing to see if she carries the breast cancer gene.

What is Genetic Testing?

Video: Genetic Testing For Cancer

Genetic testing examines the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes for any mutation. In normal cells, these genes help ensure the stability of the cell’s genetic material and prevent uncontrolled cell growth. Mutation of these genes has been linked to the development of hereditary cancer, including breast and ovarian cancers.

A blood sample is used to test the genes for any signs of mutation. A woman with a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation is five times more likely to develop breast cancer than a woman without the mutation; however, the discovery of the mutation is no guarantee that breast cancer will occur. There is also an increased risk for other cancers in those with a BRCA mutation. Our genetic counselors and doctors will guide the woman through the results and what they may mean for her in the future.

What to Expect

While the physical risks of genetic testing are very small, the test results may have a strong effect on the person's emotional health. People who receive a positive test result may feel anxious, depressed or angry and may choose to undergo preventive measures, such as mastectomies and complete hysterectomy, which have serious long-term implications and uncertain effects.

If you are thinking about genetic testing, you should talk to a genetic counselor, nurse or doctor qualified to explain the process and what the results of these tests could mean. It is very important that you know what genetic testing can and can't tell you, and to carefully weigh the pros and cons of testing before these tests are done.

Getting Started

Before any decisions are made about genetic testing, your family history is needed and this worksheet gives you a starting point. Once you have it filled out, share with your personal healthcare provider – family doctor, internist, OB/GYN, etc. – and let them guide you.