Should You Get a Genetic Test for Breast Cancer?

Should You Get a Genetic Test for Breast Cancer?

A talk with Dr. James Lasker about when, why and who should get this potentially insightful test.

 

“This test affects a very specific percentage of women. It’s a small percent, but it’s important,” says James Lasker, MD, a board certified oncologist with Birmingham Hematology Oncology Associates.

 

What test? The genetic test for the BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 mutation (pronounced like “bracka”). A lab looks for the mutations in your DNA using a blood sample taken by your oncologist or physician.

 

Who should get one? Dr. Lasker says that if you fall into any one of these three categories, get the test:

  • If your sister or your mom tested positive for the BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 mutations,
  • If you have at least two relatives who were under 50 and had any breast or ovarian cancer, or
  • If you were under 45 years old and diagnosed with any breast cancer.

 

What about men? “This includes males in the family too,” says Dr. Lasker. “Though only 1% of men get breast cancer, if your brother has it, go get the genetic test and see if you’re carrying these genes.”

 

How do you get the test? “You go to the breast cancer center of your choice or your oncologist and meet with a genetic counselor,” says Dr. Lasker. “Bring documents showing positive test results for your relatives in order to prove you might need the test.” The counselor will take your medical history, and if needed, schedule you for the blood test.

 

Why bother? “Women with BRCA 1 and 2 mutations have a markedly elevated risk of getting breast cancer – 50% to 85% greater than people without those mutations,” says Dr. Lasker. “And also a 15% to 40% increased risk for ovarian cancer.”

 

It doesn’t just spot breast cancer risk. “If you’re a carrier, you’re also at a higher risk for pancreatic cancer,” says Dr. Lasker. “So knowing that your family has multiple higher incidences of glandular malignancies means you can screen early to pick up on these things, and that makes a difference with possible outcomes.”

 

What it means if you test positive. “If you have the BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 mutation, then you need to get a mammogram and MRI every 6 months, instead of yearly, and have your ovaries screened too,” says Dr. Lasker. Early detection of breast cancer means a high chance of curing it. And knowing about the heightened risk of ovarian cancer can also help you decide to have your ovaries removed once you’re done having children.

 

A good source. “If you want to know more, visit the National Comprehensive Cancer Network website at nccn.org,” says Dr. Lasker. You’ll find in-depth and recent information about the genetic test and various cancers.

 

by Jane Ehrhardt

 

To read more about Dr. James Lasker, click here.

For more on Birmingham Hematology Oncology Associates, click here.

This article written and brought to you by BirminghamDoctors.com.

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