Genetic Counseling and Testing

To determine if a patient is at extremely high risk for developing breast cancer, genetic testing may be done to look for inherited genetic mutations (abnormalities in the genes). Not all genetic abnormalities can be tested for. Genetic counseling is offered to appropriate patients who then may choose to proceed with testing. This test assists in determining if the cancer risk/abnormal gene in a particular family has been passed down. A saliva sample is tested for alterations in the genes that normally suppress tumor cell growth. These are the BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 genes. Genetically inherited breast cancers that we can test for, account for only about 10% of all breast cancers.

Risks for genetically inherited breast cancer include:

  • Personal or family history of early age (under 50) breast cancer.
  • Personal or family history of ovarian cancer
  • Personal or family history of male breast cancer
  • Personal or family history of bilateral breast cancer or two primary breast cancers
  • Multiple family members (usually 2-3 or more on the same side) with breast cancer at any age
  • Being of Ashkenazi Jewish heritage