Genetic Risk Counseling

Question: Will I pass breast cancer on to my daughter?

About 5-10% of breast cancers are caused by abnormal genes passed from mothers to their daughters. If you have a genetic mutation, such as BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes, you have a 50% chance of passing the mutation on to your daughter. Women who test positive for one of these two genetic mutations have an 85% chance of developing breast or ovarian cancer by the time they are 70-years-old.

While you can’t change your genes, genetic risk counseling can give you and your family an inside look at what you’re up against, genetically speaking.

What is genetic risk counseling?

Genetic cancer risk counseling assesses how likely you are to develop cancer. Genetic counselors will review your family and medical history to determine your specific risk. Cancer risk counseling services include:

  • Review of the role of genetics in cancer
  • Personal cancer risk assessment
  • Discussion of appropriate screening tests and medical evaluations
  • Review Discussion of available genetic testing, including risks, benefits and limitations
  • Discussion of the pros and cons of the test
  • Referral to other specialists, as needed

Is genetic counseling right for you?

Genetic counseling is a good idea if your family has any of the following characteristics of genetic cancer:

  • A family member diagnosed with cancer before age 50
  • At least one family member who has had two or more different cancers
  • Two or more immediate family members with the same type of cancer
  • Several generations of family members who have had the same or a related cancer
  • Family members of Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry (Eastern or Central European) having breast, ovarian or colorectal cancer
  • Family members with rare cancers, such as male breast cancer

The emotional side of testing

Making the decision to get genetic testing is one that you shouldn’t take lightly. But remember, knowledge is power. Knowing whether you have a certain genetic predisposition to cancer can be empowering by allowing you to take ownership of your breast health.

Genetic counseling and testing allows you and your doctor to:

  • Identify one of the causes of cancer
  • Identify other family members who may benefit from cancer screening
  • Identify individuals and family members who are not at increased risk of cancer
  • Develop a cancer-screening schedule based on the latest genetic information
  • Create a care plan that may include risk-reducing medications or preventive surgeries

The test

The test itself is simple. Your doctor will draw a small blood sample. The sample will then be evaluated for a change in genetic material that may be associated with an increased risk for certain cancers.

The results

Whether you test positive or negative for a genetic mutation, genetic counselors will guide you through your results. Once you know what you’re facing, genetic counselors can map out some options for facing cancer-causing genes head on.