From your health and wellness experts at Prisma Health
Health, Women's Health
October 12, 2017

When to consider genetic testing for breast cancer

Whitney Dobek, MS, CGC
USC OB/GYN Genetic Counseling
Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women globally. Most breast cancers happen randomly; however, about 5-10 percent of breast cancers in the U.S. occur due to a genetic mutation, making an individual more susceptible to developing breast cancer. Knowing this information can help you and your health care provider decide on a course of action to manage your risk, including lifestyle changes, screening tests, medication or preventive surgery. 

Here are five things you should know when considering genetic testing:
  1. Knowing your personal and family history is important. Here are some reasons you could be referred to speak with a genetic counselor about genetic testing:
    • You have a personal or family history of breast cancer occurring at age 50 or younger, male breast cancer, or breast cancer at any age with three or more affected in the family
    • You have a personal history of or a close relative diagnosed with ovarian cancer
    • You have a family member with a gene mutation linked to hereditary cancer
    •  You have Ashkenazi Jewish heritage, along with having a history of breast or pancreatic cancer
  2. Cost or insurance coverage should not deter you from considering genetic testing. Compared to a decade ago, genetic testing has become much more affordable and is more likely to be covered by insurance. The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA), is a federal law passed in 2008 that covers most Americans and prohibits the use of genetic information to set a person’s insurance eligibility and premium. 
  3. It’s important to meet with a genetic counselor to find out if genetic testing is right for you. Together, you will discuss your family health history, hereditary cancer and genetic testing options, as well as the possible results that the testing can return. If you decide to proceed, genetic testing involves a quick blood draw that is sent off to a laboratory. 
  4. In general, it’s best to start by ordering genetic testing on someone in the family who has had cancer, as their results can be more informative for the family as a whole. If anyone in the family carries a hereditary cancer mutation, it would be most likely found in an individual with cancer.
  5. Genetic testing results can change cancer screening recommendations. Results could alter medical plans for treating breast cancer and offer significant information to help other family members manage and make decisions about their health. 

Learn More

If you are concerned about a personal or family history of breast cancer, ask your doctor for a referral to a cancer genetic counselor. For more information about USC OB/GYN Genetic Counseling, contact us at 803-545-5775 or by email