Note: I am a genetic counselor, but I'm not YOUR genetic counselor. This information is hopefully helpful, but each person's situation is different. Want to meet with a genetic counselor? Find one near you at: findageneticcounselor.com

Follow

The Mid-South's Premier Parenting Resource

breast cancer ribbon
Breast Cancer and Genetic Testing :: A Genetic Counselor Weighs In

There's a lot you can inherit from your family: your hair color, your eye color, your morbid sense of humor...but what about a higher risk for breast cancer?

Small hands with medium-dark skin behind a pink background. The hands are holding a pink breast cancer awareness ribbon.
Some families are at a higher risk for breast cancer. Is yours?

Unfortunately, breast cancer is pretty common: about 1 in 8 women will develop it over their lifetime. But for some women, because of their genetics, the risk is a lot higher.

About 5-10% of the time, breast cancer is due to a genetic condition (called a cancer predisposition syndrome). This means that a person's risk to develop cancer is much higher compared to other people. Are you worried that your family has a breast cancer predisposition syndrome? Here are some things to consider.

How do I know if hereditary breast cancer runs in my family?

Here are some "red flags" that may pop up in a family that carries a higher risk for breast cancer:

1.) Breast cancer diagnosed before the age of 50 years

2.) Bilateral breast cancer (cancer has been found in both breasts)

3.) Multiple generations affected with breast cancer (for example: if a grandmother, mother, and daughter are all diagnosed with breast cancer)

4.) Male breast cancer

5.) Certain ancestral backgrounds, such as Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry

I'm worried that my family has a higher risk for breast cancer. What should I do next?

Meeting with a genetic counselor can be really useful. A genetic counselor will ask detailed questions about your personal and family history and use that information to assess how likely it is that a genetic change (called a mutation) is passing through the family. They may also talk to you (or your family members) about doing genetic testing, which involves testing the DNA that you were born with to see if you have a mutation. Sometimes talking about all this is really scary! The genetic counselor is also trained to address any thoughts, feelings, or concerns you have along the way.

What happens if I test positive for a mutation?

Your health care providers will make recommendations about breast screening based on your personal and family history, and your genetic test result. Usually, this means beginning breast screening (mammograms and ultrasounds) at earlier ages, or doing them more frequently. It may also involve more detailed screening like a breast MRI. Some women choose to have their breast tissue removed, even if they don't have cancer, to reduce the risk as much as they can (this is called a prophylactic mastectomy).

I have a lot more questions about hereditary cancer! Where can I go to learn more?

To find a genetic counselor near you, go to findageneticcounselor.com.

Here are some great resources for more information about hereditary breast cancer:

1.) Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered (FORCE)

2.) Cancer.org Genetic Counseling and Testing for Breast Cancer Risk

3.) Bring Your Brave campaign from the CDC

Breast cancer is scary, but there are things you can do to better understand and manage your risk. There's lots of support out there to help address your questions and fears, and health care providers (like genetic counselors) to help you navigate it all!

More Great Articles


{MMB Thankful Series} :: When Turning Out the Lights Isn’t Enough
Throughout the month of November and in preparation for Thanksgiving, we are sharing the things that we are thankful for as mothers. We're calling this our "Thankful Series." Our contributor Amanda Parks is mother to 9-month-old Madison, and has several things she just couldn't live without as a first-time mom. As a new mother, I'm […]
It’s Time :: Moms, Let’s Do Better
I have a serious question. (This rarely happens. *wink*) When did it become okay to be late? Maybe I’m old-school or am just imagining it (I’m not.), but it seems these days it’s becoming more and more typical for people to casually stroll into meetings 10-15 minutes late, blow off dinner plans for an hour […]
Veterans Day and Our Kids
My first memories of celebrating Veterans Day are from elementary school. In my tiny hometown of Bruceton, TN, we had an awesome celebration each year to honor veterans in the area. Since our school had kindergarten through 12th grade in the same building, the entire school attended the program. I have such fond memories of the Veterans of […]

ABOUT US


Memphis Moms is the Mid-South's premier parenting resource.

Encouraging + Equipping + Empowering moms

We strive to build community by connecting area families to relevant resources, local businesses, digital guides, can’t-miss happenings, and most of all — each other!

FOLLOW US