Genetic Testing and Breast Cancer

There is increasing awareness of genetic forms of breast cancer in part due to famous people with these conditions such as Angelina Jolie. The fact is that inherited breast cancer is uncommon. It comprises <5% of all breast cancer.

The other 95% is caused by a mutation or change in a cell, and not due to an error inherited in our genes. This can occur just from bad luck but the risk of it increases with several environmental factors such as age, hormones, obesity and alcohol. Unfortunately, breast cancer is common. In Australia 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with it at some time in their life. It therefore follows that most women will have at least one relative with it. But what does this mean for you and your family?

The Impact of  Your Family History

If you have a strong family history (multiple close relatives on one side of your family) you may wish to consider being tested or having more intensive screening. Genetic testing has been around for many years though in the last few years has become much more accessible with a reduction in the cost of the test. Now, anyone can access genetic testing as long as they are happy to pay for it.

Dr Adams recommends doing this through a specialist geneticist as they can discuss with you the implications of a positive test for you and your family; and help explain ambiguous test results. There are several known genes which can be tested for, but there are certainly many more which are yet to be discovered. A negative test in people with a strong family history (but not a documented genetic abnormality) doesn’t magically make you low risk, as there may be a gene fault yet to be discovered that therefore cannot yet be tested for.

If you have breast cancer at a young age even without a family history, the chance of a problem with your genes is increased and Dr Adams may discuss genetic testing with you.

Working Women and Breast Cancer

If you need more information on this topic, feel free to contact us.

Genetic Testing and Breast Cancer