What is inherited cancer?
Approximately 5-10% of all caners are “inherited” or “hereditary” which means they are caused by a change (mutation) in certain genes. These gene changes may:
- be passed down from a mother or father to their son or daughter
- raise a person’s risk for developing one or more types of cancer; however, not everyone who inherits the gene change will develop cancer
How do genes play a role in inherited breast cancer?
7-10% of all breast and ovarian cancers are due to changes in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 (BRCA) genes. A BRCA gene change can lead to:
- Breast cancer at a younger age
- Breast cancer in both breasts
- Many family members with breast and/or ovarian cancer
- Aggressive breast cancers, such as triple-negative breast cancer or basal-like breast cancer
What makes inherited cancer more likely to run in a family?
One or more of the following features may be present in a family:
- Two or more family members on the same side of the family (i.e., the mother’s or father’s side of the family) have the same type of cancer
- Cancer diagnosed at or before age 50
- Cancer in paired organs, such as both breasts
- The presence of a very rare cancer, such as male breast cancer
- A family member has more than one type of cancer, such as both breast and ovarian cancer
- Cancer in two or more generations of a family
What to expect when seeing a genetics professional:
This visit may be referred to as a “genetic counseling” session. Important parts of the genetic counseling process include:
- Collecting your personal and family history information, which can be used to figure out the chance of inherited cancer in your family
- Providing education about inherited cancers and how genetic testing may help you and your family make healthcare decisions
- Discussing the emotional impact of genetic testing on you and your family
- Helping you make a decision about whether genetic testing is right for you
What is involved with genetic testing?
- There may be forms for you to review and sign
- Your blood or saliva will be collected and sent to the lab for testing
- Test results are usually back within a few weeks
- The price for genetic testing varies and may or may not be covered by your insurance company
- You should speak with a genetic counselor or other healthcare provider if you have questions
How could genetic testing help me or my family?
Genetic test results, along with your person and family history, may:
- Help to understand the chances that you or your family members might develop breast and/or ovarian cancer
- Provide information to select medical options to address your risks
How to find a genetics professional near you:
To locate a genetics professional close to you, please visit the National Society of Genetic Counselors (NSGC) website: https://www.nsgc.org/page/find-a-genetic-counselor