Genetic Testing

Comprehensive Management of Hereditary Cancer Risks

You might be considering genetic testing or perhaps your doctor has recommended it to you. Genetic testing determines if you have inherited genes that increase your risk of being diagnosed with cancer at some point in your life.  

Woman’s genetic counselors are experts that can determine which genetic tests may be helpful to you based on your medical and family history. They will also explain the testing process, review your results with you and recommend preventive next steps.

Talk to your doctor about a referral to a genetic counselor.

You can also use this family history worksheet to determine if you have a family history of cancer and ask your doctor if genetic testing is right for you.

Your genetic counselor will ask you about your family history, usually going back three generations. This is because first-degree relatives (parents, siblings and children), second-degree relatives (aunts, uncles, grandparents, grandchildren) and third-degree relatives (great aunts and uncles, first cousins) all “count” when trying to decide if you should consider genetic testing.  

It’s a common myth that a woman is safe from cancer if the women on her father’s side of the family had cancer, but not her mom’s. Men can still inherit genetic mutations that would predispose a woman to a female cancer, but of course they wouldn’t have symptoms because they don’t have female organs (ovaries, fallopian tubes, etc.). So, be sure to get a history from both sides of the family because each side plays just as important a role in figuring out your risk.

BRCA1 and BRACA 2 Testing for Breast Cancer

Genetic testing examines the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes for any mutations. 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 you through the results and what they may mean for you in the future.

Early warning signs that should prompt medical attention

  • A new lump in the breast or armpit
  • Dimpling or thickening of breast skin
  • New redness on the skin
  • New nipple changes/retraction
  • Nipple discharge
  • Change in shape of the breast
  • Breast pain