North Texas hospitals are already doing the kind of genetic testing Angelina Jolie is bringing to light in a very personal New York Times editorial.
Jolie revealed that she got a double mastectomy earlier this year as a preventative measure. She has a mutation in her BRCA1 gene that makes her breast cancer risk over 80 percent and her chance of ovarian cancer about 50/50.
If you have a family history of early breast or ovarian cancer and are concerned about your risk, consult a genetic counselor. Most major hospitals have several on staff and many won't charge you for the first appointment. To find a genetic counselor near you, click here. To learn more about BRCA mutations and genetic cancer risk, click here.
Genetic Cancer Risk- The Basics
- What is genetic cancer risk? Cancer happens as a result of changes or mutations in genes that control cell growth. Cells with mutations may begin to grow uncontrollably, forming tumors. Some inherited gene mutations make a cancer more likely to develop. If a parent has a genetic mutation, there is a 50 percent chance it will be passed down to their child.
- How do I find out if I am at risk? There are several factors to consider. Cancer before the age of 50, several cases of certain cancers within a family, and tumors occurring in the sex not usually affected (like male breast cancer) are all red flags.
- How does genetic testing work? Talk to a genetic counselor about whether you are a good candidate. If you are, a blood sample or saliva swab will be submitted to a lab. Depending on your family history, they’ll look for several genetic mutations. If you already know which mutation a primary relative has, they’ll test for that specific genetic change.