Breast Cancer Could Be In The Genes

Topeka (WIBW) - Most women diagnosed with breast cancer have no family history of the disease, but about five to ten percent of the cases can be traced to a pair of specific genes for which you could be tested.

The genes are called BRCA 1 and BRCA 2.

Certified genetic counselor Molly Lund with the Cotton-O'Neil Cancer Center says women and men who have mutations in these genes have an increased risk of cancers, particularly breast and ovarian cancer.

Lund says those with BRCA mutation have an 80-percent lifetime chance of developing breast cancer, compared to eight percent of those who don't have it. Women with it also have a 40-percent chance of developing ovarian cancer, compared to less than two percent without it.

Knowing if it's in your genes can help you make some vital decisions. Lund says it could encourage people to be screened at an earlier age and using tools such as MRI instead of mammogram. Women also might consider medications that can reduce cancer risk. The most radical decisions would involve surgery, such as removal of the breasts or ovaries.

Despite the increased risk, it's not recommended everyone run out and get tested. Certified genetic counselor Lenna Levitch, also with Cotton-O'Neil Cancer Center, says it's best to test a person who has cancer because that person is most likely to have the mutations.

Levitch says the gene mutation always runs in families. If the person with cancer doesn't have it, their children wouldn't have it. I they do, there's a 50-50 chance the kids will, so they can decide if they want the testing.

Testing could involve drawing blood. However, the most recent tests are as simple as swishing mouthwash into a cup.

Non-diagnosed patients concerned about their risk might want to start with seeing a genetic counselor, who'll start with an extensive questionnaire of their family medical history. Levitch says there is benefit in getting the information and getting educated, then reassessing whether a person believes they need the test. Levitch says many people think they have a very high risk of carrying the gene mutation, but review their history and see it's actually quite low.

Levitch says to alk to your family doctor if you're interested in being referred to a genetic counselor. She says insurance coverage may depend on whether it's deemed information that could impact care.

Both Levitch and Lund also remind people that family history is a factor in fewer than 10-percent of the breast cancer cases, so annual mammograms are important for all women over the age of 40.

Red Flags for Genetic Testing:
*Under age 40 with no family history of breast cancer
*Under age 50 with no family history of cancer
*Two primary breast cancers
*Both breast and ovarian cancer with no family history

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