March 15, 2012
Inherited mutations in the genes BRCA1 and BRCA2 are the most common cause of hereditary breast cancer, according to the American Cancer Society. The mutations also increase the risk of ovarian cancer, said Pamela Brock, a certified genetic counselor with Baptist Hospital East here and the University of Louisville.
People who have inherited a mutated copy of BRCA1 or BRCA2 have a high risk of developing breast cancer during their lifetimes, according to the cancer society. In fact, the risk might be as high as 80 percent for members of some families with BRCA mutations, the group notes.
So the testing, which can cost more than $3,300, isn't "appropriate for everyone or even everyone with breast cancer," said Andrea Lewis, manager of the Norton Cancer Institute's Genetic Counseling Services here.
Criteria for testing vary. But in general, "some red flags that we look for in families are things like breast cancer diagnosed young — under the age of 50," said Lewis, a certified genetic counselor. Also, "three or more family members diagnosed with breast cancer on the same side of the family; people who have had multiple cancers; so, for example, a woman who's had breast and ovarian cancer or two separate breast cancers; any woman diagnosed with ovarian, fallopian tube or primary peritoneal cancer; (or) any woman with a triple negative breast cancer diagnosed under the age of 60."