Genetics

You Can Change Your Jeans,
but You Can’t Change Your Genes

Only an estimated 15 percent of breast cancers occur in women with a family history of it, and genetic mutations account for only 5 to 10 percent of all breast cancers. The most common identified mutations occur in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes, and having either of these mutations significantly increases your overall lifetime risk of developing breast and/or ovarian cancer. BUT it does not mean you are destined to get these diseases.

If you have a strong family history of breast cancer on either your mother’s or father’s side, ask your doctor if you should be referred to a genetic specialist to help you determine if genetic testing is advisable for you. A simple blood test, often covered by insurance, will indicate if you have a genetic mutation. The decision to do genetic testing is a very personal one, and only you can decide what you need to do for your overall health and well-being.

  • To find a cancer genetics specialist in your area, visit the National Cancer Institute at www.cancer.gov/search/genetics_services or call 1.800.4-CANCER.
  • To learn more about hereditary breast and ovarian cancer, or to speak with a genetics counselor, contact Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered (FORCE) at www.facingourrisk.org or call 1.866.824.7475.
  • Visit Bright Pink (www.bebrightpink.org) to obtain education and support for young women at high risk for breast and ovarian cancer.

NOTE: The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 was signed into law to protect individuals who choose testing to evaluate their genetic predisposition to disease.