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Living Your Breast Life! Understanding Genetic Testing for Cancer


It’s estimated that 268,600 American women will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer this year. 62,930 women will receive a situ breast cancer diagnosis. 

And 2,670 American men will be diagnosed with breast cancer as well. About 41,760 women and 500 men will die from breast cancer. 

One way to beat those alarming stats is to become proactive about your own health. Getting a regular mammogram is one way. 

Receiving genetic testing for cancer is another. But it’s important to get the facts about genetic testing first. Keep reading to learn more. 

What Genetic Testing for Cancer Is

Some women and men have mutated versions of the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. That puts them at a greater than average risk for developing breast cancer. 

These same genes are also associated with putting people at a greater risk of developing pancreatic, ovarian, and prostate cancers. Genetic testing for these two genes is performed using a blood sample.

In some cases, a cheek swab is taken rather than blood. However, the results can be life-altering so genetic counseling alongside testing is also recommended. 

High-Risk Groups

Some people may be at a higher risk than others for developing breast cancer. If you’ve already been diagnosed with breast cancer, you can have a blood sample tested. 

Other high-risk groups include:

  • Those with several family cases of ovarian cancer
  • Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry (Central and Eastern European)
  • Immediate family members with cancer in both breasts
  • One or more BRCA positive relatives (male or female)
  • Family members diagnosed with breast cancer before age 50
  • Breast cancer in two or more immediate family members

Talk to Your Doctor Before Getting Breast Cancer Genetic Testing

If you do fall into one of those categories, take a complete family history form to your physician to discuss your risks of developing cancer. After reviewing your family’s medical history, he or she will discuss the role of genetics in cancer. 

They’ll also perform a hereditary cancer risk assessment. After all the facts are reviewed, then the doctor may recommend breast cancer genetic testing. 

Testing Positive is Not a Breast Cancer Guarantee

However, it’s important to note that even if other immediate family members do test positive, that doesn’t guarantee that you will. Even if you do test positive, while your risk for developing cancer is increased, it’s not a 100% sure thing. 

Your lifestyle habits and environmental risks also influence whether you’ll develop breast cancer. 

The Results of Genetic Testing 

There are several results that are possible with genetic testing. You may end up with a positive result. Again, the means you do carry the gene mutation but is not a guarantee you’ll develop cancer.

A negative result means you do not have that gene mutation. However, a negative result does not guarantee you’ll never develop breast cancer. 

Most cases of breast cancer are not hereditary so developing an early detection plan is your best line of defense.

Uncertain or Ambiguous Results are Possible

It’s also possible to end up with an uncertain or ambiguous result. 

What that means is that there is a mutation on the gene. But it’s not known whether that mutation will adversely affect your chances of developing breast cancer. 

Emotional Risks of Genetic Testing

It’s vital to take some time to consider the impact the results of this type of test will have not just on you, but your family as well. There may be adverse psychological reactions of guilt, depression, fear, and anxiety if you test positive. 

Family member relationships may be disrupted as it can also predict your family member’s risks of cancer. It’s a very personal decision so make sure you’re ready to handle the results before you get tested. 

The Positive Benefits of Genetic Testing

It’s also possible to have positive emotions from receiving the results of your genetic test. A negative result can bring peace of mind. 

A positive result can provide someone with a complete understanding of their health risks so they can take proactive steps to manage their cancer risks. For those who have already been diagnosed with cancer, it can help them make more informed decisions regarding their treatment options. 

Genetic testing also helps family members learn more about their own risks of cancer so they can take appropriate measures.  

The Cost of Genetic Testing

Genetic testing isn’t cheap. While most insurance companies do cover the cost of genetic testing, they will only do so if your family history meets certain requirements. 

Cancer Screening Exams are Important

If you are diagnosed with HBOC (Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer) syndrome, you have a much higher chance of developing breast cancer. Those with HBOC should begin cancer screening exams earlier than traditionally recommended at their local breast imaging center. 

Those with HBOC between the ages of 25 to 29 should receive an annual breast MRI. Patients 30 or older should receive annual mammograms and breast MRI.

They should alternate between a mammogram and breast MRI every six months. 

Preventive Surgery

It’s been in the news recently that some celebrities such as Angelina Jolie opted to undergo preventive surgery to remove their breasts. This is also known as a prophylactic bilateral mastectomy.

While it can reduce your risk by up to 95%, it is also a very aggressive approach. 

Where to Receive Genetic Testing 

Follow Up After Results

It takes about four to five weeks to get the results of your blood or tissue sample. Once the results are in, you’ll most likely meet with a genetic counselor. He or she will review and discuss your results. 

You will also receive a written summary of your test results. It’s important to fully comprehend and discuss your results. 

If you test negative, you may not need to do anything further other than continuing to get regular mammograms and perform breast self-exams. 

When to Start Getting Mammograms

Whether you’re at risk or not, it’s important to find where to get a mammogram near me. It’s recommended that women should begin getting yearly mammograms beginning at age 45. 

At age 55 they can begin getting a mammogram every other year. However, if you’re concerned about your health or find a lump, you can begin getting a mammogram earlier than that. 

Where to Find a Breast Center Near Me

It’s a good idea to ask your doctor where to find a local breast imaging center. The center can also help you decide if genetic testing for cancer is an option you should consider. 

If you’re looking for mammogram centers near me in the Flemington or Paterson, NJ area, look no further. We have two convenient offices located near you. Click here to schedule an appointment

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