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Five Myths - and the Reality - About Genetic Testing for Breast Cancer

Five Myths - and the Reality - About Genetic Testing for Breast Cancer

Myth #1: Most breast cancer is genetic.

In reality, only about 5-10 percent of breast cancer cases are hereditary. If you do have a strong family history of breast and ovarian cancer, you may have inherited what’s called a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation, which greatly increases the chances of developing breast or ovarian cancer. If your family history raises red flags, tell your doctor, and start the conversation about your own personal risk.

Myth #2: The breast cancer is on my father’s side of the family, so there’s nothing to worry about.

It’s easy to fall prey to this line of thought, but fathers actually pass down the BRCA mutation at the same rate mothers do, so definitely consider the cancer history on both the maternal and paternal sides of your family.

Myth #3: If you have a mutation, you will automatically get cancer.

Of course not. But, most women who have a BRCA1 or BRCA2 genetic mutation are diagnosed with Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer syndrome, which in turn means they have a 50-85% chance of developing breast cancer by age 70 and a 40-60% risk of developing ovarian cancer by 85. In these cases, there are still options to reduce their breast cancer risk, like more frequent breast exams, early breast imaging and screening, and preventative mastectomies.

Myth #4: Men don’t have to worry about inherited breast cancer.

Men carry these mutations too, which means they could have an increased risk of developing prostate cancer. Having a BRCA2 mutation also increases a man’s risk of melanoma and pancreatic cancer, in addition to breast cancer.

Myth #5: I already have cancer so knowing my BRCA status won’t change anything.

Knowing your BRCA status opens the door to certain treatment options. Plus, patients with a hereditary predisposition have a much higher risk of getting a new primary cancer in another place. Genetic testing can also help let your family members know about their own potential cancer risk.

Want to know your risk? Take our Breast Cancer Risk Assessment

Everett J. Bonner

Everett J. Bonner, Jr., MD
The Baton Rouge Clinic

Phone: (225) 246-9416