Hereditary Breast Cancer – Risk Assessment & Genetic Testing

At The Breast Center, every patient completes a personal and family history to determine if she could be at higher risk than average for developing breast cancer.

Most cancers happen by chance and are not passed down in families.

However, families with more than one breast cancer or breast cancer at a young age may be at higher risk.  Some families with high risk for breast cancer also have an increased risk of developing ovarian and other cancers.  The good news is that there may be options for reducing the risk of breast and ovarian cancer.  Watch the video below from Dr. Danna Grear to learn more. 

If your history indicates that you may be at risk, the radiologist and/or technologist may recommend that you schedule a Risk Assessment appointment. A Risk Assessment is an appointment with a specially trained registered nurse who will use information about your family and personal history to determine your personal risk for developing breast cancer.  If your risk is increased, additional screening such as an annual screening MRI may be recommended.

Take our Breast Cancer Risk Quiz to learn more. 

How do I schedule a Risk Assessment Appointment?

If you have questions regarding high-risk screening and genetic counseling, or if you would like to schedule a Risk Assessment Appointment with our registered nurse, please call 479-442-6266.

Before your risk assessment appointment, it is helpful to talk to your family about relatives who have had a cancer diagnosis – especially breast and ovarian cancer.  Information on both your mother’s and father’s side of the family is important.  Questions to ask include:

  1. Who has had cancer of any kind?
  2. Where did the cancer start?
  3. How old were they at time of diagnosis?
  4. Has anyone in the family had genetic testing? If so, bring a copy of their results if possible.

Genetic Testing

Approximately 5 to 10 percent of women with breast cancer have a hereditary form of the disease. All people with cancer-predisposing genes will not actually develop cancer, but their chances are dramatically increased. By being informed about cancer risk, people can develop appropriate cancer screening schedules and take steps to shift the odds in their favor.

Genetic testing is a highly sophisticated laboratory test that analyzes DNA from a patient’s cells and identifies the presence of chromosomal abnormalities known as BRCA mutations.  Patients who have BRCA mutations have a very high risk of developing breast cancer during their lifetime as well as an increased risk for ovarian cancer.

If family history is suggestive of hereditary breast cancer syndrome, patients may want to consider genetic testing. A clue that a mutation may exist in a family would be the presence of multiple relatives in a family with breast or ovarian cancer, particularly if diagnosed at a young age.  Patients with two first-degree relatives, such as mother and sister or two sisters are particularly at risk for having a mutation.  A male in the family with breast cancer or Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry also increase the likelihood of a BRCA mutation. At The Breast Center, patients can take a risk assessment evaluation to find out if they should consider genetic testing.

Women at increased risk for breast cancer may wish to consider a screening program which may include clinical breast exams, mammography and MRI.

More Information

Take our Genetics Hereditary Cancer Quiz to learn more about your risk of breast cancer.

Download a risk assessment form to help you gather more information for your Risk Assessment Appointment.