Breast Cancer

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Genetic Testing For Breast Cancer

Dr. Elizabeth Comen Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center

There are different types of genetic testing. There is testing for the DNA in our cells which shows what bad mutations we might have inherited or that could be passed along to our blood relatives. This testing for hereditary cancer risk requires your approval.

Then there is genetic testing of the tumor. This has been approved for payment by Medicare and has become standard practice, but does not require your approval.

For some patients, testing for a hereditary cause of cancer may be appropriate. This means determining whether you inherited an increased risk of cancer from your mother’s or your father’s side of the family. Your doctor will discuss your family history of cancer with you in the context of the type of tumor you have and your age at diagnosis. Hereditary genetic testing is usually done with a blood or saliva test.

The second test involves the genetic sequencing of your tumor. These genetic changes can be inherited but most arise during a person’s lifetime. This process usually involves examining a biopsy or surgical specimen of your tumor. This testing can lead to decisions on drugs which might work against your cancer.

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Dr. Elizabeth Comen serves as a medical advisor to SurvivorNet. She is a medical oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Read More