Is genetic testing right for you in determining cancer risk?

should i get genetic testing to determine my risk for breast cancer?Medical advances have now allowed us to identify whether patients with certain inherited gene mutations have an increased risk of breast cancer.

Awareness is growing among patients that there are genes related to breast cancer and steps they can take to reduce future risk – but that doesn’t necessarily mean we should all get tested.

Here are some things to consider when deciding whether testing is appropriate for you:

Genetic testing will only provide insight into one area of risk.

You might still be high risk, even if the test shows no gene mutation. Maybe you have dense breasts, maybe you’ve never had kids, maybe you smoke, or you drink alcohol daily. Genetic abnormalities are associated with about 10 percent of cancer cases. That means no matter your test result, if you have factors that place you at higher risk, it is still important to have regular screenings.

If you were tested 5 years ago or more, you may consider retesting.

Back then, tests were only looking for mutations in BRCA 1 and 2. Now, tests routinely look at more than 25 genes that have a connection to increased risk for cancer development.

Make sure testing is appropriate for you.

Testing is most appropriate for those with a family history across multiple generations. Some special populations, such as Ashkenazi Jews, also have a higher tendency toward mutation and would be good candidates for testing.

Genetic testing isn’t just for women.

Gene mutations don’t discriminate and men get breast cancer as well. Testing, however, is not recommended on minors since the mutations inform lifetime cancer risk and children are too young to consider potential interventions.

You’ll want someone with expertise to help with the results.

There are interventions that may reduce the risk of cancer, from more frequently screenings to medication and surgery. Your primary care physician may be a good place to start the conversation, but often a specialist in breast cancer risk is best equipped to partner with patients to help them identify the next steps that are right for them. TMC offers a High-Risk Breast Clinic . Please call 324-2778 for more information.

Dr. Michele Boyce Ley, a board-certified breast oncology surgeon, serves as medical director of TMC’s Breast Health Program. She is accepting new patients and is located at 2625 N. Craycroft Road.

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Tucson Medical Center | 5301 E. Grant Road | Tucson, Arizona 85712 | (520) 327-5461
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