Hereditary Breast Cancer & Genetic Testing

Approximately 5 to 10 percent of women with breast cancer have a hereditary form of the disease.

Not all people with cancer-predisposing genes will 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.

What is Genetic Testing?

Genetic testing is a highly sophisticated laboratory test that analyzes DNA from a patient’s cells and identifies the presence of chromosomal abnormalities. Many people have heard of BRCA mutations; however, there are several gene mutations that can increase risk for breast and other cancers. Patients who have these mutations have a very high risk of developing cancer during their lifetime.

Who should consider Genetic Testing?

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 who have had breast cancer, 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, we are now taking the recommendation of the American Society of Breast Surgeons and testing ALL newly diagnosed breast cancer patients for mutations. We have also expanded the guidelines for other patients, and have found mutations in individuals whom we might not have tested before.

Some physicians now suggest that ALL women have a risk assessment to determine the need for screening, genetics, and risk reducing strategies. At The Breast Center, patients can take a risk assessment evaluation to find out if they should consider genetic testing.

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

Schedule a Personalized Risk Assessment to learn more.

The first step, if you are interested in genetic testing, is to meet with our specially trained registered nurse for a Risk Assessment Appointment. At this appointment, you will discuss your personal and family history to determine whether you are at increased risk for breast cancer. To schedule a Personalized Risk Assessment Appointment with our registered nurse and find out if genetic testing is an option for you, 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:

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

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