Who Should Consider Genetic Testing for Breast Cancer?

Mar 07, 2024
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Choosing whether to undergo genetic testing for breast cancer is a big decision that can lead to the ability to make proactive choices about your health. Read on to learn more about how testing works and who should consider it.

Having a certain genetic mutation can increase your likelihood of developing a health condition such as breast cancer. However, even if you do test positive, it doesn’t mean it’s an already determined outcome.

While making the decision to undergo genetic testing is highly personal, one of the benefits of having the results is the knowledge to make choices and take actions with your diet, lifestyle, and medical care to stay as healthy as possible.

Dr. Jennifer Beatty and our dedicated staff provide a wide variety of care for all breast-related concerns at The Breast Place in North Charleston, South Carolina. Whether you're seeking genetic testing to determine your breast cancer risk or you’ve already been diagnosed and are looking for a care team, we can help.

Breast cancer, in brief

Breast cancer is the second most common type of cancer in women in the United States. It occurs when cells in the breast mutate to become cancerous and then multiply and form tumors.

Cancer and genetics

All cancers result from a genetic change or mutation within the body. Often this occurs spontaneously; in many cases, it’s influenced by environmental factors.

Sometimes, however, a gene variant related to cancer can be inherited. This is often the case in families with a history of certain types of cancer. It is important to note, however, that just because someone inherits a particular variant doesn't mean they definitely will develop cancer.

Genetic testing for breast cancer

Genetic testing seeks mutations in certain genes that can increase your risk of breast cancer (and potentially other cancers). While not all genes related to this type of cancer have been identified, the test can look for the presence of mutations in several that have been linked with breast cancer, including BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes.

Good candidates for genetic testing

Even if you have a family history of breast cancer, odds are you don’t have an inherited gene mutation. In those women (and men) who do, however, having this information can help you better manage your health with more frequent cancer screenings and possibly other steps to decrease your risk. 

Guidelines on who should be genetically screened can be complex, and you should discuss them with a genetic counselor.

While not all individuals with breast cancer need genetic testing, those who might find it helpful include people diagnosed at a younger age, those having triple-negative breast cancer, and those being diagnosed with a second breast cancer that isn’t a recurrence of the first. 

People who are of Ashkenazi Jewish descent or who have a family history of breast cancer (particularly at a younger age or in men) or other types of certain cancers — including ovarian cancer, pancreatic cancer, or prostate cancer — could also benefit.

 In addition, some people who haven’t been diagnosed with breast cancer may benefit from genetic testing. This includes people with a known family history of a BRCA or other gene mutation and those with a family history of breast cancer at a younger age, with more than one person in the family having breast cancer, or a male family member with breast cancer.

Testing could help women who’ve been diagnosed with ovarian or pancreatic cancer as well as men with breast, pancreatic, or high-grade or metastatic prostate cancer. Those with a close family member who have one of these diagnoses may also want to consider testing.

Are you looking for answers?

If you’re concerned about breast cancer, we can help determine your personal risk and assess whether genetic testing makes sense for your situation. Book an appointment online for a genetic counseling session, or call The Breast Place today at 843-797-1941.