October is breast cancer awareness month, so this month we will be posting many resources on the topic. Today’s post is all about understanding your genetic predisposition for breast and ovarian cancer.
Genetic testing is available for hereditary breast and ovarian cancer, which can assist you in understanding your predisposition for developing either of these diseases.
If your family has a history of breast or ovarian cancer, it’s a good idea to discuss it with your doctor.
Mutations (changes) in genes can run in families. If you were born with mutations in certain genes — called BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes — you’re at higher risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer. You may also be at higher risk of developing other types of cancer.
What is genetic testing and counseling?
Genetic counseling and testing can help you understand your risk of developing these cancers — or getting them again.
Genetic counseling is typically conducted prior to genetic testing, and this is when a trained health professional talks with you about your family health history and helps you decide if genetic testing makes sense for you. It can also help you understand your results if you decide to get tested.
Genetic testing can show whether you were born with mutations in certain genes that increase your risk of cancer.
Usually, genetic testing is recommended if you have:
- A strong family health history of breast and ovarian cancer
- A moderate family health history of breast and ovarian cancer
- Ashkenazi Jewish or Eastern European ancestry
- A personal history of breast cancer
- A personal history of ovarian, fallopian tube, or primary peritoneal cancer
- A known BRCA1, BRCA2, or other inherited mutation in your family
If genetic tests show that you’re at higher risk of developing breast or ovarian cancer, you and your doctor can discuss options for managing your risk.
What about cost?
Insurance plans must cover genetic counseling for women at higher risk of getting breast cancer. Many plans will also cover genetic testing when it’s recommended by a doctor. That means you may be able to get counseling and testing at no cost to you.
Read about our advanced diagnostic breast cancer screening program here.
Talk to your insurance company to find out more — and be sure to ask about both genetic counseling and genetic testing.
What do I ask the doctor?
When you visit the doctor, it helps to have questions written down ahead of time. You may also want to ask a family member or close friend to go with you to take notes on the conversation for you.
Here are some examples of questions to get you started.
Am I at risk of developing breast or ovarian cancer?
Based on my health history and my family history, would you recommend genetic testing to learn more about my risk?
What are the benefits and risks of genetic testing? What does this mean for me?
Will finding out about a genetic mutation make me more worried about getting sick? Or will I feel better knowing I may be able to lower my risk?
If I have a mutated gene, will I be able to take action to lower my risk? What are my options?
If I have a mutated gene, what would it mean for my children’s health? What about other relatives?
Will I share the test results with my children and other relatives (like siblings) who could have the same gene mutation?
If I get genetic testing, who will be able to see my test results?
Besides mutated genes, what other things increase my risk for breast and ovarian cancer?
If I decide not to do genetic testing, what types of cancer screening tests would you recommend to check for breast and ovarian cancer?
It’s difficult to find educated people on this topic, however, you sound like
you know what you’re talking about! Thanks