Genetic Testing for Breast Cancer


Breast cancer can be hereditary.  If you have a family history of breast cancer or have been diagnosed yourself, our Mercy doctors may recommend genetic counseling and possible testing. This testing is a safe, simple way to discover if you or your family is at risk for certain cancers. With that knowledge, you’ll be better equipped to plan for your future.

Why is Early Testing Important?

The most common form of inherited breast cancer is due to Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer syndrome, caused by a mutation, or change, in either the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene that was present at birth. A BRCA mutation can raise your risk of breast cancer as high as 87% and your risk of ovarian cancer as high as 44%.  If testing shows you have a BRCA mutation, other family members may want to be tested as well.

BRCA1 and BRCA2 are not the only genes that predispose you for breast cancer. Genetic counseling can help determine if testing for additional genes is appropriate and, if so, which of the many options for multi-gene panels is most appropriate for you. 

Once we’re able to determine if you’re genetically predisposed to cancer, we’ll be ready to detect its early signs to give you your best chance for a healthy life.

Who Benefits From Genetic Testing?

Genetic testing can be beneficial to women of all ages and backgrounds. However, certain events in your family history suggest a higher risk for inheriting cancer. We may recommend genetic testing if:

  • You have a family member on either parent’s side diagnosed with breast cancer before age 50
  • Your family member was diagnosed with ovarian cancer at any age
  • Your male family member had breast cancer
  • You are of Ashkenazi (Eastern or Central European) Jewish ancestry, with a personal or family history of breast or ovarian cancer
  • You or a family member had two or more breast cancers, with one diagnosed before age 50
  • You’ve had breast cancer in both breasts or more than one within the same breast
  • You or a family member have been diagnosed with breast and another type of cancer such as ovarian, thyroid or uterine cancer
  • You have a previously identified genetic mutation in your family

The Genetic Testing Process

For most genetic tests, either a saliva sample or blood sample is collected.  Results are generally available in two to four weeks.  If your result is positive for a mutation, we’ll ask you to come back to our office to discuss cancer surveillance strategies for you, and possibly recommend testing for other family members.

Does insurance cover it?

Most insurance companies will cover the cost of genetic testing if you meet the test criteria.  If you don’t have insurance coverage, programs are available to help.

Why test at Mercy?

Mercy offers complete, compassionate care for people concerned about cancer. A hereditary risk assessment is performed by our team of doctors at the cancer center who are experts in the process.  In addition, for those patients found to have a genetic predisposition, Mercy offers a longitudinal care strategy that allows for better outcomes.

Breast Cancer & Genetic Counseling

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