Holden Cancer Center tip: Breast cancer and genetic testing

In 2011, an estimated 230,480 women will be newly diagnosed with breast cancer and 39,520 deaths will occur. The disease is the second most common cancer and the second leading cause of cancer death in women.

Breast cancer also can occur in men. In 2011, around 2,140 men will be diagnosed with the disease, with an estimated 450 deaths.

Although only 5 to 10 percent of breast cancers are due to inherited gene mutations, inheriting a harmful gene can increase a woman’s lifetime risk by five times.

Women and men with a significant family history may wish to consider genetic testing to see if they carry harmful mutations linked to breast cancer.

A positive test result does not mean a person will get cancer, only that there is an increased risk. Equally, if no mutation is found, it does not guarantee that cancer will not develop.

Before getting tested, each person should consider the advantages and disadvantages of being tested. It is important to talk with a doctor for more information on privacy issues, insurance coverage, and whether genetic testing is a good option.

To learn more, contact Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center Cancer Information Service at 800-237-1225 or visit www.uihealthcare.org/otherservices.aspx?id=226973.