Genetic Counseling

The Cancer Genetics Program offers a comprehensive cancer risk assessment that focuses on family history and genetics, along with environmental and lifestyle factors. Breast cancer education and individualized risk assessment is initiated by evaluation of one's personal risk factors. Individuals meet with a genetic counselor to review their family's history and construct a family tree to evaluate the probability of hereditary cancer risks. Lifestyle factors and attitudes about cancer risk are explored. A personalized cancer risk profile with strategies to reduce the chance of developing cancer is developed.

By identifying risks for cancer and developing strategies to detect cancers early, genetic counseling can dramatically improve the chances of surviving breast cancer.

The Clinical Breast Cancer Program offers genetic counseling and testing through its Cancer Genetics Program, a program designed for women who are at increased risk for developing breast cancer.

The program includes:

  • Genetic counseling for women with a personal or family history of breast cancer or ovarian cancer or other cancer
  • Genetic testing for BRCA1, BRCA2 and other cancer genes, which predispose women to breast and ovarian cancers. We now test for many genes for hereditary breast cancer beyond BRCA1/BRCA2, so some patients who were previously tested and had normal results may want to return for updates in their genetic testing.
  • Participation in research programs, as appropriate

Studies have shown that having a close relative with breast or ovarian cancer may increase one's personal risk for developing these types of cancer. The link between genes and cancer is often strongest in families with:

  • Breast cancer in young women before the age of 50
  • Breast and/or ovarian cancer in several close relatives
  • Breast cancer and ovarian cancer occur in the same individual
  • Breast cancer in both breasts
  • Breast cancer in a male

Genetic Testing for Breast Cancer

Genetic testing for BRCA 1, BRCA 2, and many other breast cancer susceptibility genes can be arranged on the day of the visit. Mutations in these genes increase the lifetime risk of breast, ovarian and associated cancers. The value of genetic testing depends on a woman's or man's individual preference for information after full education about benefits and risks of genetic testing. From the information gained during this process, personally designed prevention and early detection strategies are developed.

Breast Cancer Research Studies

Research studies are key to improvements in the future to prevent breast cancer. All patients are offered enrollment in research studies related to various aspects of diagnosis, treatment and prevention of breast cancer. Some of the center's current research focuses on the genetics of breast cancer in Asian American women, who tend to develop breast cancer at earlier ages and more aggressive forms than their non-Asian counterparts.