The recent news about Angelina Jolie’s decision to undergo a double mastectomy after hereditary cancer tests revealed an elevated cancer risk have many women (and some men) asking, “Should I have a cancer genetics evaluation?”
Hereditary testing involves a one hour appointment to gather your family history, evaluate a pedigree, and educate you about the risks and benefits of testing.
Kristine King, MD, an OB/GYN, board certified in Clinical Medical Genetics who practices at Valley Women’s Clinic, offers the following factors that may help you decide whether or not you should seek out genetic counseling:
• A cancer diagnosis before age 50
• More than one primary cancer in the same individual
• Multiple cancer diagnoses in paired organs (i.e. bilateral breast cancer)
• Rare cancers such as male breast cancer, pheochromocytoma (adrenal gland tumor), retinoblastoma (eye cancer)
• Families with specific cancer clusters (early onset breast and ovarian cancer, or colon and endometrial cancer)
• Three or more family members with the same cancer
• Family members with a known genetic mutation
Some primary care physicians will do genetic testing, but it may be to your advantage to seek out a genetics professional who will:
• Elicit and interpret a detailed, three-generation family history
• Determine which genetic testing is most appropriate (there are other genetic tests in place of, or in addition to the BRCA test that may be warranted)
• Discuss insurance coverage and potential genetic discrimination
• Interpret the genetic testing results
• Make cancer screening recommendations
It is important to note that not everyone needs genetic testing. Only 7 to 10 percent of breast cancer patients will have a genetic mutation that can be found. Current genetic testing will not find every cause of hereditary cancer, and people with negative genetic test results can still get cancer.
For more information, discuss this with your primary care physician or contact a certified genetics counselor. Dr. King can be reached at the Valley Women’s Clinic at 425.228.0722.