Breast cancer is a dreaded disease. Breast cancer has some hereditary traits and these traits can be identified with genetic testing. Genetic testing for breast cancer can help in diagnosing the chances of contracting breast cancer. This helps in outlining the treatment plan. Read on to know more about genetic testing and breast cancer.
There are several reasons that account for the probability of a woman contracting breast cancer. They comprise of environmental factors, lifestyle and about 10% of the total chances are related to hereditary traits. A particular gene can be passed on from the parents to their offspring or from other members of the direct family tree. This gene the gets altered from its normal form that is, mutates to cause breast cancer in the individual. The point to note here that not all people carrying mutated genes are likely to have breast cancer, but the probability is high in them.
Procedure Carried out Before Genetic Testing for Breast Cancer
Following are the stages which women have to undergo before genetic testing for breast cancer.
Genetic Counseling Session
A vital point to be ascertained in this regard is that, the woman should go for an intensive genetic counseling session before going for the genetic test. There are several reasons to it, the most important being the psychological. This counseling session is more of an educational type where the person is informed of the various possibilities. It sort of prepares her for the results.
Mental Preparation for the Outcome
Since this is a sensitive issue, it is imperative for the woman to prepare herself for the possible outcomes. There are also a lot of myths, doubts and queries that can be correctly answered by the genetic counselor. In case of a positive result, there can be some impact on the regular life of the individual and this is attributed to the risk factor, besides there are positives as well. Once the disease is ascertained, the focus can be on effective treatment and helping the patient to lead a normal and healthy life.
Signing of the Consent Form
A consent form is made to sign by the woman before the genetic tests are carried out. This is of course done after due consultation with the healthcare provider. The purpose of this is to ensure that you are aware of the procedure of the test, and you have discussed the issue with your doctor. It also indicates that you understand the probable impact the outcome of the test can render on your family.
The Genetic Test for Breast Cancer
Following are the steps involved in genetic testing for breast cancer.
Checking Family History
In genetic testing for breast cancer, it is important that the person carries a family pedigree. A pedigree refers to a sort of family chart of the individual where the cancer developmental pattern is noted down. When the cancer genes run in the family there is a particular pattern in which they are manifested in each member of the family tree. The pedigree helps the doctors to understand the genetic makeup of the current members as well as the ancestors of the individual and the analysis of the individual characteristics becomes easier.
After the outline of the pedigree is complete, a blood test is carried out to find whether the breast cancer genes are present in the individual. Here it is important to understand that a lot of breast cancer cases are actually not directly associated with the breast cancer genes. Researchers are still to identify all the exact genes that cause breast cancer; therefore, just the known genes are tested.
Findings of the Test
Say if the pedigree finds the presence of BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene, the respective individual is considered to carry a ‘known mutation’. The doctor then associates the breast cancer gene with the possibility of breast cancer and the blood sample of all the family members who are available for the test are tested in order to be completely sure. The results of the tests are indeed very vital information as the future healthcare decisions can be accordingly planned. Even negative results in this genetic testing for breast cancer must be interpreted with caution as there can be unknown genes that might potentially cause breast cancer in the individual.