The Cancer Prevention Program is available to patients of select Premier Physician Network primary care and gynecology offices. “Patients start out by completing a screening questionnaire that will help determine their breast cancer risk due to family history or genetics,” Townsend says.
Depending on questionnaire results, you could be referred to a genetic counselor, and for genetic testing, if your family history indicates you’re potentially at risk for genetic mutations that put you at higher risk for breast or other cancers.
“After talking with a genetic counselor, you can reach a better understanding of how much your family history can impact you, what your risks for cancer really are, and your choices for managing them. You might even be relieved to discover that your family history is not as serious a problem as you thought,” Sawyer says.
On the other hand, if your doctor recommends genetic testing, she says, “it deserves your thought and careful consideration. You should discuss with your doctor or genetic counselor the benefits and limitations of genetic testing and what it can tell you and what it can’t. It’s very specialized. It’s not a routine test.”
She adds that insurance often covers genetic testing, if you’ve been identified as having a defined level of risk. Your genetic counselor or specialist can work with you to help determine insurance coverage and to find affordable options for genetic testing.
Genetic counseling and testing can help you and your doctor develop a personalized strategy to manage your cancer risks, for instance, through lifestyle changes, earlier or more frequent cancer screenings, medications, and surgery.
Family History That Can Raise Risk
Your chances of having breast cancer can increase when one or more of your blood relatives has had breast or ovarian cancer.
Your risk rises with these factors:
- The closer your relation. First-degree relatives (siblings, parents, and children) pose the greatest risk, followed by second-degree relatives (nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles, and grandparents), and third-degree relatives (first cousins, great-grandparents, and great aunts and uncles).
- The more relatives who have had breast or ovarian cancer
- The younger your relatives were when diagnosed. Risk rises with diagnosis before age 50.
- Both breast and ovarian (or pancreatic) cancer run in your family.
- You have a father or brother who had breast cancer.
- You have an Ashkenazi Jewish heritage (ancestors who came from Eastern Europe).