Genetic Counseling and Testing for Breast Cancer

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If you are concerned about a family history of breast cancer, the Swedish Cancer Institute’s genetic counselors can help.

Genetic counselors are healthcare providers with specialized training in medical genetics and counseling. SCI's Hereditary Cancer Clinic has board-certified genetic counselors who use medical and family history to help you make an informed decision about genetic testing.

Genetic counselors evaluate a person's detailed personal and family medical history. This information is used to determine whether genetic testing is needed. The genetic counselor will explain the risks, benefits and limitations of genetic testing and help verify insurance coverage. Genetic testing will not be done until your insurance coverage is confirmed so you can make the decision to proceed.

When to see a genetic counselor

If you have a personal and/or family history of cancer, genetic counseling may be recommended. Here are some reasons to consider genetic counseling:

  • Known familial mutation in a cancer susceptibility gene
  • Early onset breast cancer (before age 46)
  • Breast cancer in both breasts (first diagnosis before age 50)
  • Triple-negative (ER-, PR- and HER2-) breast cancer (before age 60)
  • Personal or family history of ovarian cancer at any age
  • Two or more close relatives with breast cancer on the same side of the family
  • Personal or family history of breast cancer and Ashkenazi/Eastern European Jewish ancestry
  • Family history of male breast cancer

Only 5 to 10 percent of all cancers are hereditary. The two most common genes linked to hereditary breast and ovarian cancer are BRCA1 and BRCA2. BRCA1 and BRCA2 make up about half of all cases of hereditary breast and ovarian cancer. There are other genes known to cause hereditary cancers, and researchers expect to find more.

Genetic testing usually involves either a blood draw or a saliva sample. The results are confidential and usually available within three weeks.

Genetic testing can significantly influence a breast cancer patient’s treatment plan. Our genetic counselors work closely with high-risk ARNPs, oncologists, surgeons and other cancer specialists.

For more information or to make an appointment, please call one of our three locations for the Hereditary Cancer Clinic: