Published on October 10, 2019

Do You Know Your Risk for Breast Cancer?

By Leslie Poston, ARNP, AGN-BC, Oncology Genetics Specialist

Genetic testing can help find out if you're at risk for getting certain forms of cancerOctober is Breast Cancer awareness month, which has us all thinking about our risk. But do you really know your risk? And did you know that your risk for breast cancer is affected by your family and may be linked with a genetic mutation?

About Mutations

Nearly 5-10 percent of all breast and ovarian cancers have a genetic link. Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer Syndrome is associated with a mutation in either the BRCA 1 or BRCA 2 gene, which increases a woman’s lifelong risk of breast cancer by up to 87 percent and her risk for ovarian cancer by up to 44 percent.

BRCA mutations are the most common genetic link for increased risk for breast cancer at this time, but they are not the only genetic links. Genetic mutations in PALB2, PTEN, TP53, and others can also be linked to an increased risk for breast and other cancers. Genetic testing is available to detect mutations in the BRCA genes and other genetic mutations associated with increased cancer risk.

Not all breast cancer is related to a genetic mutation. Women with a family history of breast cancer are at an elevated risk and may benefit from additional screening. The exact risk for each person varies and depends on how many people in the family are affected with breast cancer, the age at their diagnosis, and their relationship to the person.

Probability models are available to calculate a women’s risk of breast cancer related to her family history. Additional screening/risk reduction options are available for women at a high risk for breast cancer. If you are interested in calculating your risk, click here. And for more detailed calculations talk with your provider or a genetic risk counselor.

Candidates for Genetic Testing

Leslie PostonOncology Genetic Specialist Leslie Poston, ARNP, AGN-BC

Not everyone will benefit from genetic testing. If you are interested in genetic testing, you should speak with a qualified professional who can tell you if you qualify for testing, explain the testing process, and your options. That same person can also discuss your results with you and explain how they affect your risk. Not every genetic mutation carries the same risk and screening/risk reduction options may differ.

Some forms of breast cancer are not related to a genetic mutation. The exact risk for each person varies and depends on how many people in the family are affected with breast cancer, the age at their diagnosis, and their relationship to the person.

Insurance Coverage

Most insurance companies cover genetic testing if certain criteria are met. Many insurance companies require pre-test counseling with a genetic counselor or qualified provider before they will cover the cost of testing. Some insurance plans may even cover genetic testing at 100 percent. This is why it is important to speak with someone who can explain the qualifying criteria prior to testing.

The more that you know about your family history, the more proactive you can be. For more information regarding genetic services available at Genesis, click here.

You can always call 563-421-3080 to schedule an appointment with me, too. I would be more than happy to discuss with you the benefits of genetic testing, and to see if you might be a candidate.

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