Breast Cancer and Genetics

Genetic Testing Points to Consider

Genetic testing is a process in which it is possible to look for genetic alterations that may be associated with an increased risk of particular cancers. Genetic testing may reveal whether the cancer risk in a family is passed through their genes.
Although the lab test itself is quite complex, only a blood sample is needed. Genetic testing for breast cancer risk involves looking for altered genes such as BRCA1 and BRCA2.
Because finding an altered gene can take several weeks or months, test results may not be readily available. The price of testing also varies. The price can be quite high and may not be covered by health insurance, or you may not want your insurance company to know you were tested. Ask your doctor or other healthcare professional for more information on genetic testing and health insurance coverage.
Things to consider before being tested include:
  • Limitations of the test
  • Coping with cancer risk
  • Advantages of testing
  • Disadvantages of testing.
Testing for breast cancer risk will not give you a simple "yes" or "no" answer. Finding a gene alteration in BRCA1 or BRCA2 indicates an increased risk of getting cancer, but it will not indicate if or when cancer will develop.
Currently, altered genes cannot be "fixed," but some day, research may make it possible to prevent the disease in people who carry an altered gene.

What Can I Do If I Have an Altered Gene?

If you are at increased risk for breast cancer, you can make choices that may help reduce your risk of getting cancer or help find cancer early. Of course, you can take these steps with or without getting tested for a BRCA1 or BRCA2 alteration.
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