Having a family history of breast cancer is one of the risk factors that can increase your chance of having this disease. Genetic counseling can reveal if you have certain mutations that raise your risk of breast cancer, which can help you make important decisions that could significantly lower this risk. However, many women do not have access to this type of testing, and doctors do not always bring it up as an option or recommend it.
Genetic Mutations in BRCA Genes
Mutations on the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes have been associated with a higher risk of developing breast cancer and a deadly form of ovarian cancer. Women who have one or both of these genetic mutations and find out before having cancer can take steps to lower their risk, such as opting for a double mastectomy or a oophorectomy (ovary removal). Those who have already been diagnosed with breast cancer can also use this information to decide the best course of treatment.
Risk Factors for Genetic Mutations
Women who have one or more risk factors might be considered at an increased risk of having genetic mutations that are linked to breast cancer. These risk factors include the following:
- Having a family history of breast cancer and other types of cancer
- Having a family history of one or more genetic mutations that are associated with cancer
- Being at a younger age when receiving a cancer diagnosis
- Having a personal history of breast cancer or other certain cancer types
- Having Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry and other risk factors
Doctor Recommendations and Genetic Counseling
If you have one or more of these risk factors, your doctor should recommend undergoing genetic counseling. Unfortunately, many women who are at high risk do not have this testing done because their doctors do not recommend it. In fact, a study published in JAMA found that only 39.6 percent of women who were recently diagnosed with breast cancer had a counseling session, even though 80.9 percent of them wanted it done. Most of these women stated that their doctor did not recommend genetic counseling.
Problems with Access to Genetic Counseling
Women who do choose to have genetic counseling and doctors who recommend it to their patients sometimes encounter difficulty finding access to this type of testing. At Advanced Tele-Genetic Counseling, we provide this service to patients and doctors who understand the need for ensuring that genetic counseling is available to women who are at high risk of having mutations.
If you have a family history of breast cancer, please contact us at Advanced Tele-Genetic Counseling to schedule an appointment. Our counselors can help determine if you have gene mutations that increase your risk of breast cancer. If you are a physician who recommends this type of testing, contact us to help ensure that your patients have access to it.