shutterstock_162825059Do you have a family history of breast cancer? Breast cancer genetic testing will let you learn if the breast cancer in your family is the result of an inherited gene mutation called BRCA. Up to 10 percent of breast cancers in the U.S. are linked to an inherited genetic condition due to this so-called “breast cancer gene.”

How do genetics increase breast cancer risk?

A genetic mutation is a change in the genetic code that affects the functioning of that gene. These gene mutations can be passed on from parent to child. There are particular mutations that can increase risk for breast cancer, and a breast cancer test from the Center for Medical Genetics can help you make decisions with your doctor.

Which gene mutations increase the risk?

People who have the breast cancer 1 or 2 mutation have a greatly increased chance of cancer. These inherited mutations are called BRCA1 and BRCA2. Other gene mutations (53, CHECK2, ATM) may also be linked to breast cancer. These known mutations account for only 5-10 percent of breast cancers diagnosed in the U.S. People with a mutation are referred to as “carriers.” It does not mean they will get cancer, but a BRCA test can help them make informed decisions.

How is breast cancer risk genetically tested?

You will work with a genetic counselor who will guide your through the process and help you interpret the results. First, you will be asked to create a family chart to see if there is a pattern of breast cancer within your family. Next, a blood test will be performed to see if you carry a mutation in a gene linked to cancer predisposition. Scientists do not know every mutation associated with particular cancers, so you will only be tested for  mutations in known genes — particularly administering a BRCA1 and BRCA2 test. Other members of your family may be asked to participate by offering a sample of blood. If you decide a BRCA test is the right thing to do, risk screening can be done for women and men as early as age 19 and at any age after that. Simply contact the Center for Medical Genetics to schedule the test.

How are breast cancer genetic test results interpreted?

If the test comes back negative, the gene mutation was not identified. A negative result means you did not inherit a mutation in any of the tested genes, which may alter or reduce your risk for breast cancer. A positive test result means you have a mutation known to increase the risk of breast cancer. Keep in mind that the majority of breast cancers are not associated with a known mutation.

What is the prevalence of the breast cancer mutation among ethnic groups?

What are my options if I carry the mutation?

Knowing your level of risk may guide important health care decisions for you and your family. Knowing your risk early lets you take advantage of new and emerging methods that support cancer screening and surveillance, prevention, and treatment.