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Breast Cancer Genetic Test

Q: I heard there is a new blood test for breast cancer! Who should be tested?

Dr. Donnica:
Sorry, but there is no definitive blood test for breast cancer -- yet. You may have heard of the blood test for the genetic mutations that cause some women to have a much higher risk of developing breast cancer. These genes are called BRCA1, BRCA2, and the newest one --BRCA3. If you inherit these genes, you may pass them on to your children, but not necessarily. Be aware that researchers estimate that only 5-10% (one in 20 to one in 10) of breast cancers are due to genetic changes. If you have one of these abnormal genes, you have a one in 2 chance of developing breast cancer. You would also have a greatly increased risk of ovarian cancer.

There are pros and cons to genetic testing. We recommend that you speak with your doctor and a genetics counselor if you are thinking about getting these tests. For women who have a mother, sister, or daughter with breast cancer, it may be worthwhile for that relative to get tested first. If they do not have the genetic mutation, chances are far less likely that you would be at increased risk because due to family history.

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Created: 11/3/2000  -  Donnica Moore, M.D.
Reviewed: 6/27/2002  -  Donnica Moore, M.D.

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