Genetic Testing and Understanding Hereditary Breast Cancer

August 15, 2022


Did you know that hereditary cancers account for up to 10% of new cancer diagnoses? This happens when cancer-causing genes are passed from one generation to the next. Because they’re linked to genetics, hereditary breast cancer, ovarian cancer, colon cancer, melanoma, pancreatic cancer and prostate cancer may seem unavoidable.

However, learning about your risk factors—and taking a genetic test if necessary—can allow you to start screening early or take action to prevent the disease.

Getting started: How does a hereditary cancer risk assessment work?

If you suspect that you may be at risk for cancer—such as a family history of cancer or being part of an at-risk ethnic population—talk to your doctor to see if genetic testing is right for you. Your care provider will start with a hereditary cancer risk assessment.

Using a computer, iPad or even your phone, you’ll take an online survey to answer simple multiple-choice questions about your family history and lifestyle.

If you’re flagged as high risk, your provider may suggest a genetic test, and may also provide an individual care plan based on national clinical guidelines. Your provider can also talk to you about genetic education, counseling, diagnostic testing information and personalized care management.

Next steps: What is genetic testing?

Genetic testing can help you determine if you are at increased risk for developing certain types of cancer by searching for specific changes in your genes. The test typically involves taking a saliva sample or cheek swab and you should get results within a few weeks.

Genetic testing can:

  • Determine whether you have a genetic mutation known to increase your risk for certain inherited cancers.
  • Help your provider make a timely and accurate diagnosis and use that information to create a customized management plan and make informed treatment decisions.
  • Enable your provider to better predict disease aggressiveness to assist in making more informed treatment decisions.

Your provider will work with you to help you determine next steps after you receive the results of your genetic test. These might include starting cancer screening earlier than national guidelines recommend or choosing to take other actions to prevent disease.

Your partner in breast health

Take the first step to knowing your risk of cancer and owning your future. As your partner in breast cancer prevention, diagnosis and care, we’re with you every step of the way.

Talk to your doctor to see if a hereditary risk assessment or genetic testing is right for you. You can also learn more about genetic testing offered by Adventist Health in: