Medically reviewed by
Dr. Danielle Saldana
McLeod Surgery Clarendon – Sumter Office
Breast cancer can be a scary topic for women and men. This can be an especially scary topic for people who have a family history. For patients with a family history of breast cancer, physicians and the American Cancer Society recommend earlier and more frequent imaging modalities than your standard mammogram yearly starting at the age of 40. New recommendations also show benefit for genetic testing. This can come into the picture to help with planning future testing and potential surgery. The most common genetic predisposition to breast cancer comes from BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes.
A woman’s BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes are helpful unless they become mutated. 50-70% of women with a BRCA1 or 2 mutation will get breast cancer by the time they’re 70, versus only 7% of women in general in the US.
“In their normal state, the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes generate proteins that suppress tumors,” says McLeod Surgeon Dr. Danielle Saldana. “When specific inherited mutations occur, the genes do not produce properly, and DNA damage may go unrepaired making breast cancer more likely.”
TESTING & COUNSELING
Genetic counseling may precede the testing for women with a family history of the inherited gene syndrome. The counselor will discuss whether testing is appropriate for you, the significance of a positive test, psychological issues related to the test and, if positive, your risk of passing a mutation to your children.
Testing for the BRCA genes can be done with a blood or saliva sample. Results may take a few weeks after the sample is sent to a laboratory for analysis. This type of genetic testing can test for up to 35 different genes that area associated with not only breast cancer but other cancer related genes.
A positive result only indicates a person has an increased risk of developing breast (and/or ovarian) cancer. It does not say whether you will actually get cancer. The benefit of having genetic testing is more information to make an informed decision moving forward.
GROUPS AT HIGHER RISK
The BRCA gene mutation appears in certain groups, depending on personal health, family experience, certain ethnics group or geographic populations. Some of the most common risk factors include:
ACTION YOU CAN TAKE
If you’re concerned about whether you have the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation, talk with your personal physician. They may suggest genetic counseling or a test.
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Sources include: McLeod Health, American Cancer Society, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institutes of Health