Considerations for Genetic Testing for Hereditary Breast Cancer

Written By: Jessica Laprise, MS on October 08, 2020

Should I Consider Genetic Testing for Hereditary Breast Cancer?

While 1 in 12 women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime, the majority of cases are not believed to be due to inherited genetic factors. However, approximately 10-15% of breast cancers are due to inherited genetic changes known as mutations. BRCA1 and BRCA2 are the two genes most commonly associated with hereditary breast cancer. Inherited mutations in these genes increase the risk for breast (55-85% lifetime risk), ovarian (23-55% lifetime risk), pancreatic (up to 5% lifetime risk), and prostate (15-25% lifetime risk) cancers.

More recently multiple additional genes have been identified that can also result in hereditary breast cancer and are available for testing. Genetic testing, which is performed on a small sample of blood or saliva, can identify individuals who carry these genetic changes in order to best estimate cancer risk for both themselves and their family members.


If you or a close family member have any of the following risk factors you may benefit from genetic testing:

  • Personal or family history of breast cancer diagnosed under the age of 50
  • Personal or family history of ovarian, pancreatic or metastatic prostate cancer diagnosed at any age
  • Personal history of bilateral (2 different breast cancers) or triple-negative breast cancer
  • Male breast cancer
  • Family member with a known genetic mutation
  • Three or more relatives on the same side of a family with breast cancer
  • Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry alone (without cancer family history)
  • Previous limited genetic testing that analyzed only BRCA1/ BRCA2 or under 20 of genes


Understanding whether you carry a genetic mutation can allow you, along with your doctors to create a personalized screening plan that can help to reduce the chance of developing cancer or identify it earlier. The cost of genetic testing has decreased substantially in recent years, and the vast majority of people with risk factors will have little to no cost for testing.


A meeting with a cancer genetic counselor can help you to understand if genetic testing is right for you. Together with the genetic counselor you can review your personal and family history and discuss the option of genetic testing if appropriate. Once the results are available, the genetic counselor will help to explain the implications for both you and your family, as well as provide a thorough cancer risk assessment and medical management plan to your treating physician team.


Visits with a cancer genetic counselor are available at The Breast Health Center at Kent Hospital and can be scheduled by calling (401) Care Now.


Written by:

Jessica Laprise, MS
Genetic Counselor, Kent Hospital