Breast Cancer and Genetics

July 5, 2022

The content below appear in H4TG's A Guide to Caring for Yourself inside A Calendar to Live By 2022.

Content provided by Myriad Genetics.


As medical care becomes more personalized and tailored to each individual, women affected by breast cancer can also benefit from an individualized treatment plan by knowing if their cancer is hereditary. Genetic testing, also known as hereditary cancer testing, can help a woman and her healthcare provider know what surgery may be most appropriate, what treatments she may be eligible for, and what her future screening needs may be for her as well as her family.

While a variety of factors may contribute to the development of breast cancer, a hereditary cancer test such as Myriad myRisk® analyzes each woman’s DNA to potentially identify if her genes contributed to her cancer diagnosis. By knowing her hereditary cancer status, a woman affected by breast cancer can make a more informed treatment plan with her healthcare provider and inform other family members of potential risk of developing cancer. Knowing your status can help both you and your family.


By understanding if a diagnosis may be due to hereditary causes, women affected by breast cancer and their healthcare providers will be better able to choose options in the following areas:

Surgery: For women affected by hereditary breast cancer, there may be an increased risk of their breast cancer spreading elsewhere in the body or the development of a second cancer. Surgeons can use hereditary cancer status to determine which surgery may be most appropriate for a woman’s current cancer and to reduce the risk of future cancers. The American Society of Breast Surgeons recommends all women with a diagnosis of breast cancer receive hereditary cancer testing to help with this effort.

Treatment Options: Women with hereditary cancer may be eligible for certain treatment options. I If diagnosed at a later stage, certain drugs may be more effective in battling breast cancer for women with hereditary breast cancer. A hereditary cancer test can help an oncologist or other treating provider identify what options may be available.

Future Screening: Knowing your cancer is due to hereditary causes may warrant more frequent MRIs or mammograms in the future. A woman with hereditary breast cancer may benefit from increased screening to help identify a recurrence or a future incidence of cancer earlier, when it is more treatable.


The same hereditary cancer test that can help determine your treatment plan can also help family members take steps to help prevent breast as well as other cancer types. The parents, siblings, daughters, sons, and cousins of someone with a hereditary cancer gene(s) may also have a risk of developing cancer at a younger age or multiple types of cancer. By understanding their risk today, they can take steps to help identify cancer earlier or even potentially prevent a cancer from developing. Even if you did not receive hereditary testing initially, you and your family members may still benefit from the testing after your treatment is finished.


While there are many companies who do genetic testing in a recreational capacity – for example, determining your ancestry – hereditary cancer testing, which looks at each individual’s DNA to guide medical decisions, is different. Indicators such as the age at diagnosis and history of certain cancers within the family may qualify women for hereditary cancer testing. This testing is ordered by your healthcare provider. Tests that reveal ancestry information rarely – if ever – have information to help guide your medical decisions, so consulting with your healthcare provider can help determine the best option for you.

Women with mutations in certain genes may have up to an 87% risk of developing breast cancer in their lifetime.

Women with an estimated lifetime risk of breast cancer of 20% or greater are recommended to have more frequent screening. This risk estimation can be calculated using tools such as Tyrer-Cuzick or the riskScore component of Myriad myRisk.



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