Breast Cancer Gene Testing
Know Your Risk. Change Your Outcome
One in eight women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime. With odds like that, no woman in West Monroe will deny that breast cancer is on her radar. Mammograms, clinical exams, and breast self-exams are all important for early detection and prevention.
However, genetic tests for breast cancer now provide even more preventative options for women with a personal or family history of breast and/or ovarian cancer.
Local BRCA Gene Testing You Can Trust
Since 2012, the Glenwood Breast Health Center has provided women in northern Louisiana the opportunity to get BRCA gene testing in a comfortable and professional environment. As a group of community-focused professionals, the Breast Health team at Glenwood Regional Medical Center felt compelled to bring genetic counseling services to West Monroe. Local genetic counseling services are available from 9 am to 5 pm on Tuesdays at the Glenwood Medical Mall. To schedule an appointment, please call (318) 202-5193.
What Is the “Breast Cancer Gene?
The “breast cancer gene” is actually two genes, BRCA1 and BRCA2. These genes derive their names from BReast CAncer gene one and BReast CAncer gene two. These genes aren’t just good to have, but normal. They function as tumor suppressors (a certain class of genes). When a cell begins to grow in an abnormal way (a tumor), these two genes help stop the abnormal growth.
When BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes are mutated, they may not be able to perform their job and suppress tumor growth. Abnormal “breast cancer genes” can increase the risk of various cancers developing in the body at younger ages.
The Importance of Gene Testing
A breast cancer gene test looks for deleterious (harmful) BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. This test is hugely important because it helps detect breast cancer risk and allows individuals to take steps to decrease risks of cancer before it has the opportunity to develop. In fact, studies show that women who have harmful BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutations are 5 times more likely to develop breast cancer than women with normal BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes.
Not only is genetic testing for breast cancer important for you and your health, but it’s important for other family members. Every week, specialists in the Glenwood Breast Health Center hear from women who wish they could know whether their mothers, aunts, and grandmothers carried one of these deleterious genetic mutations.
Get screened. Know your risk. And change your outcome for you and your family.
What Is a BRCA Gene Test? Does It Hurt?
There are two forms of breast cancer gene tests: a blood draw and a mouth swish. The samples are sent to a specialized lab for processing, and most results are available in 2-4 weeks. There is no more pain associated with a BRCA test than there is with a pinprick.
Should I Get a Genetic Test for Breast Cancer?
Maybe. Not every woman needs to have a test for the breast cancer gene. If you identify with one or more of the following statements, then you are encouraged to seriously consider genetic testing:
- You have been diagnosed with breast cancer in the past.
- Anyone in your family has previously tested positive for the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene.
- You have one or more blood relative (maternal or paternal) who was diagnosed with breast cancer, especially before the age of 50, including grandmothers and aunts, as well as your mother, sisters, and daughters.
- Your family history includes both breast and ovarian cancers (especially if these cancers were present in one person). A woman in your family has had two primary breast cancers.
- You are of Eastern European (Ashkenazi Jewish) descent.
- A man in your family has been diagnosed with breast cancer.
How Do I Prepare For My BRCA Gene Test?
Prior to making your first appointment at the Glenwood Breast Health Center, collect as much information as you can about your family’s history of cancer. The more information you have about your family, the more helpful Glenwood specialists will be in advising you and interpreting test results.
In addition to getting the breast cancer gene test, you should continue to get an annual mammogram and clinical breast exam, as well as perform a monthly breast self-exam.
What Can I Expect at the Glenwood Medical Mall?
An individual will have two to three appointments at the Glenwood Medical Mall. At the initial consultation, a genetic counseling specialist will explain what genetics is, what the test means, medical implications, and other information about BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. The specialist will review insurance details and your family history, will advise you if additional information about your family history is needed, and will tell you if you meet criteria for testing. Many individuals choose to have the genetic test performed that day, though some patients choose to wait until another appointment.
At the second (or third) appointment, 2-4 weeks after your test, your genetic counselor will review the test results with you. She will discuss measures you can take to drastically reduce chances of developing some cancers.
This test is covered by Medicare and most health insurance providers. Federal and state laws help protect the privacy of your genetic information and provide protection against discrimination in health insurance and employment practices.
For more information or to schedule an appointment please call Rebecca Clark, APRN, FNP-BC at (318) 202-5193.