Breast Cancer and Genetics

Increased Surveillance
You may choose to be monitored more closely for any sign of cancer. This may include more frequent mammograms, breast exams by your doctor, breast self-exams, and an ultrasound exam of the ovaries.
 
Prophylactic Surgery
You may choose to have your healthy breasts removed. This surgery may reduce the risk of cancer, but doctors do not know by how much. Because the surgery cannot remove all of the breast tissue, some women who have chosen this surgery have later developed breast cancer in the tissue that was left behind.
 

Testing Advantages and Disadvantages

Genetic testing may help you to:
 
  • Make medical and lifestyle choices
  • Find out that you do not have an altered gene
  • Cope with your cancer risk
  • Decide whether or not to have prophylactic surgery
  • Give other family members useful information (if you choose to share your test results)
  • Contribute to research.
     
There are also disadvantages to testing:
 
  • There is no proven way to reduce cancer risk.
     
  • There is no guarantee that test results will remain private.
     
  • You may face discrimination for health insurance, life insurance, or employment.
     
  • You may find it harder to cope with your cancer risk when you know your test results.
     
  • Negative test results may provide a false sense of security, because you think you have no chance of getting cancer, which is not true. You would still have the same risk as women in the general population.
     
  • Lastly, genetic testing can affect relationships with family members. You should think about who in your family might want to know your test results and whom you might want to tell.
     
If you are thinking about being tested, you should decide what the advantages and disadvantages of testing are for you. What is right for one person is not always right for another.
 
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