Actress Angelina Jolie focused the spotlight on the genetic causes of breast cancer last year when she announced that she had undergone a double mastectomy in an effort to prevent the disease. Jolie carries a defective BRCA1 gene, which she likely inherited from her mother.
Only about 5 to 10 percent of breast cancer cases are thought to be hereditary.
Still, if you think you may be among that percentage, the genetic counseling and testing offered through Holy Redeemer’s Breast Health Program can help you know for sure and possibly save your life.
Compared to the general population, women with the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutations have a higher risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer during their lifetimes. For breast cancer, that risk is 45 to 87 percent if you have either gene mutation; for ovarian cancer, the risk is up to 44 percent.
“I encourage my patients who qualify to get tested, because if they find out they have the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation, the ball is in their court,” says Amanda M. Woodworth, M.D., a breast surgeon with Holy Redeemer’s Breast Health Program. “They don’t have to live in fear of getting cancer; they have the ability to do something about it.”
Treatment options for women with the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutations can vary. They range from undergoing increased surveillance with more advanced and frequent screenings to surgically removing the breasts, ovaries, and tubes.
“It may seem drastic to have a bilateral mastectomy or have your tubes and ovaries removed in a preventive manner. But it’s also
drastic to not pay attention to your risks for cancer, especially ovarian cancer cancer, which usually can’t be detected early,” Dr. Woodworth says.
There are a wide range of options, but knowing your risks puts you in the driver’s seat to controlling your risk. Holy Redeemer’s genetics team is there to translate complicated genetic information, explain treatment options, and support you in your decision.
“The best age to consider BRCA gene testing is around 25,” says Jessica Ebrahimzadeh, M.S., a Holy Redeemer genetics counselor. BRCA testing involves a saliva or blood test. Under the Affordable Care Act, BRCA testing is free for women at higher risk for breast cancer. Among other criteria, you’re at higher risk if you’re of Ashkenazi Jewish heritage or have one or more close relatives on either side of your family diagnosed with breast cancer before age 50. “Your dad’s side matters just as much as your mom’s does,” Ebrahimzadeh says.
Ebrahimzadeh is available to review your family history and risk of developing cancer, discuss genetic testing, explain test results, and help you make informed decisions based on them.
Want to know more about your hereditary risk and what’s involved in genetic testing? Go to holyredeemer.com/genetics
. Genetics counselor Jessica Ebrahimzadeh can help you determine your risk and whether you’re a candidate for BRCA testing.
To make an appointment, call 215-494-7331.