Hereditary Cancer Testing: Empowering Informed Healthcare Decisions

In the field of clinical genetics, we spend a lot of time studying and diagnosing rare disorders, diseases that affect one in a thousand or even one in a million individuals. But did you know 1 in 8 women in their lifetime will be diagnosed with breast cancer?1 In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Baylor Genetics wanted to take this opportunity to bring awareness to a condition that is much more common, but also can be affected by your genetics.

How Can Changes in Your Genes Lead to Breast Cancer?

Many different factors can lead to the development of breast cancer; however, some individuals are born with a change in their DNA, a mutation in one of a number of genes that are associated with an increased risk for breast cancer compared to other individuals. This is referred to as hereditary breast cancer and it accounts for 5 – 10 percent of all breast cancer cases.1

This genetic change doesn’t mean someone who carries it will automatically develop breast cancer, but due to the increased risk, these individuals can benefit from specialized screening to aid in early detection and informed healthcare decisions.

How Can Baylor Genetics Identify These Changes?

BG offers a series of hereditary cancer panel tests, which can look for mutations in multiple genes that lead to different kinds of hereditary cancer. For individuals who are concerned about their breast cancer risk and would like to know if they carry a mutation in one of these high-risk genes, there are two options available:

  1. The Hereditary High-Risk Breast Cancer Panel, which looks for changes in genes associated with an increased risk of breast cancer.
  2. The Hereditary Breast/Ovarian/Endometrial Cancer Panel, which looks for changes in genes related to not only an increased risk of breast cancer, but also other reproductive cancers like ovarian cancer.

Who Can Benefit from Getting Tested?

There are certain situations, like having breast cancer at a particularly young age or having a family history of breast cancer, that indicate someone is more likely to carry a mutation in a high-risk gene. When someone has already been diagnosed with breast cancer, identifying a mutation in certain genes can help guide treatment decisions. However, anyone can benefit from testing since knowing your risk can help you and your doctor make informed healthcare decisions for the future.

A Big Decision

Choosing whether to get tested is a big decision. Seeking professional advice and guidance from a genetic counselor can help you understand the possible outcomes of testing, and what they would mean for you and your family.

A negative test result may provide a sense of relief; although the risk is not zero, there is not an elevated risk. While a positive test can be daunting and overwhelming, it may help inform future healthcare and reproductive decisions for the individual tested and their family.

The choice to get tested is a personal one, and only you will know which option is best for you. Should you make the decision to get tested, Baylor Genetics is here to help.

  1. American Cancer Society (cancer.org)
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