Should you get tested for hereditary breast cancer?

A whopping 296,980—that’s how many new cases of breast cancer were diagnosed in 2013, according to the American Cancer Society. The majority of cases are the result of chance, but about 5–10% are due to mutated BRCA genes, known as Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer (HBOC) syndrome.

When working properly, BRCA genes suppress tumors. Mutations in these genes are responsible for a greatly increased risk for breast and ovarian cancer. Some claim that women with HBOC syndrome may have a risk of breast cancer as high as 87% and ovarian cancer as high as 44%.

Thanks to a combination of celebrity testimonials and accessible genetic testing, more women than ever are being properly diagnosed.

Women who suspect they are at risk for HBOC syndrome should schedule an appointment with their physician to assess their family medical history. During this appointment, you and your physician will look at your 1st degree relatives (mother and father, siblings, children) as well as 2nd degree (grandparents, uncles and aunts, nephews and nieces) for signs such as:

  • Breast cancer diagnosed before age 50
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Two breast cancers
  • Male breast cancer
  • Triple negative breast cancer
  • Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry and a family history of an HBOC-associated cancer
  • 3 or more HBOC-associated cancers
  • A previously identified HBOC syndrome mutation

If one or more of these signs are present in your family history, your physician may recommend a genetic blood or saliva test to be certain. If you and your physician decide a genetic test is appropriate for you, ask for a referral to Cheyenne Women’s Imaging Pavilion at Cheyenne Radiology and know for sure.