Genetic Counseling

While many women are diagnosed with breast cancer each year, only a small percentage of breast cancer is caused by an inherited genetic mutation

However, the same genetic mutation that causes these 5-10% of breast cancers also puts a woman at higher risk of ovarian cancer.

Genetic counseling for these genes - known as BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations - can tell a woman whether she is at increased risk for these cancers. Mutations in BRCA1 and BRCA2 account for approximately 80-90% of all hereditary breast cancers, and women who carry mutations in these genes have a lifetime risk of breast cancer that is roughly 10 times greater than that of the general population.

The test does not guarantee who will or will not get breast cancer or ovarian cancer.

Those most appropriate for genetic counseling have:

  • High numbers of family members with cancer diagnoses (especially breast and ovarian) throughout several generations, either maternal or paternal
  • Family member diagnosed with cancer before age 50
  • Family members who have been diagnosed with multiple cancers (for example, breast and ovarian)
  • Male breast cancers, or clusterings of other cancers such as colon, prostate, stomach or pancreatic

While it's important for every woman to understand her individual risk, genetic testing may not be the right option for everyone.

Risk Assessment

The Breast and Ovarian Risk Evaluation Program, led by Dr. Sofia Merajver, provides individuals with an accurate assessment of their personal risk for developing breast cancer or ovarian cancer and offers a plan for follow-up and preventive care.

Consultations and genetic counseling include:

  • a complete family history
  • a personal health history
  • an explanation of basic cancer genetics
  • an assessment of cancer risk
  • a discussion of genetic testing options.

Gynecologic care

For women who test positive for BRCA mutations, Dr. Mark Pearlman's clinic offers follow-up care and monitoring.

This includes options to reduce risk, including surgery to remove tubes and ovaries, called a bilateral salpingo oophorectomy.

Surgical options

The Cancer Center's Surgical Oncology clinic offers prophylactic mastectomy, which is surgery to remove healthy breasts, and specialized plastic surgeons offer breast reconstruction.

Learn more about genetic counseling

Visit the Breast and Ovarian Risk Evaluation Program web pages

Family Matters: When Cancer Is Inherited

BRCA Gene Mutations and Cancer

Mandating genetic counseling prior to cancer genetic testing

Still have questions?

The nurses at Cancer AnswerLine™ have answers. Call 1-800-865-1125 and you'll get a personal response from one of our registered nurses, who have years of experience in caring for people with cancer.

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