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Breast Surgery

Genetic Risk: Frequently Asked Questions

For appointments and information, please (212) 821-0833

How common are hereditary breast and ovarian cancers?

Approximately 7-10% of breast and ovarian cancers occur because of an inherited gene mutation that is transmitted from parent to child. The vast majority of cancers occur sporadically.

What is BRAC testing?

BRAC testing refers to a blood test that analyzes two specific genes found in the human body. These breast cancer genes are called BRCA1 and BRCA2.

What will this test reveal?

This test looks for mutations (changes) in the genes. In their natural form, BRCA1 and BRCA2 code for proteins that help suppress the growth of tumors. When there is a mutation in the structure of either of these genes, it compromises the function of the gene and leads to a substantially increased risk for breast and ovarian cancer.

Who is a good candidate for genetic testing?

The American Society of Clinical Oncology recommends genetic testing in those who have a personal or family history suggestive of a cancer susceptibility syndrome. Typical indications include:

  • Breast cancer at age 50 or younger
  • Multiple primary tumors in an individual
  • Family history (maternal or paternal) of breast cancer in several individuals over succeeding generations
  • Personal or family history of ovarian cancer at any age
  • Eastern European Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry with a personal or family history of breast or ovarian cancer
  • Personal or family history of male breast cancer
  • Relatives of an individual with a previously identified mutation
  • Individuals with rare tumors

What are the benefits of genetic testing?

Individuals who test positive for the genes which predispose to breast or ovarian cancer can make informed decisions about how to reduce their risks of developing a cancer. This information can have implications for the entire family, particularly the next generation. Individuals who test negative for the genes and do not have a hereditary susceptibility may find relief in knowing their risks are similar to that of the general population.

What are the logistics of genetic testing?

At the Weill Cornell Breast Center counseling is performed prior to drawing your blood. The blood is sent to Myriad Genetics, a laboratory located in Salt Lake City, Utah. This is the only laboratory performing this test in the United States. The results are received within 3-4 weeks. You will return to the office to receive your results in person.

What will occur during the genetic counseling sessions?

At your first visit, a detailed medical and family history will be obtained. This allows us to identify the best candidates for genetic testing in the family. It also provides us with the information we need to determine which level of testing is most appropriate for you. A blood sample is drawn at the close of the first visit. At the second visit, you will meet with a physician and a genetic counselor to review the results and discuss your medical management.

Can I have my blood drawn without genetic counseling?

At the Weill Cornell Breast Center, testing will not occur without counseling. Informed consent is an important part of the genetic testing process and is required by the State of New York. In addition, genetic counseling allows us to assess your risk, personalize your medical recommendations and address your concerns in a sensitive manner.

What is the cost of genetic testing?

The cost of testing varies from approximately $400 to over $3000 depending on the type of test obtained. This is the fee charged by Myriad Genetics Laboratory in Utah.

The Weill Cornell Breast Center charges a separate service fee that encompasses the cost of counseling, blood drawing, packaging of your sample for shipment to Utah, and provision of a personalized report for you and your designated physicians.

Will my insurance cover the cost of genetic testing?

Each insurance company has a different policy regarding the coverage of genetic counseling and testing. We work directly with an insurance representative at Myriad Genetic Laboratory to help you obtain pre-authorization for genetic testing prior to your first visit.

Is genetic discrimination a real concern?

There are no well-documented cases of genetic discrimination occurring in the United States. Genetic discrimination is legally defined as the occurrence of “different treatment” by an institution or individual against a person who is not currently ill based on their genetic status. This “threat” does not apply to individuals who currently have breast or ovarian cancer or have had these cancers in the past. GINA (Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act) is under review on the Federal Level to address concerns and fears regarding genetic discrimination.

Are my results confidential?

Results are kept in a private chart and only released to third parties with your written consent.

How can I make an appointment?

Please call the Genetic Risk Assessment Program at (212) 821-0830. A brief phone interview will help determine if genetic testing is beneficial for you. If so, you will receive a packet of information in the mail along with a confirmation of your first counseling appointment.

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