Breast Cancer Genetic Testing: What You Need to Know

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At St. Elizabeth Healthcare, we know that a breast cancer diagnosis can be shocking and overwhelming. We offer comprehensive care from the moment of your breast cancer diagnosis through your surgery, treatments, recovery and beyond.

Our breast cancer care protocol has recently expanded to include meeting with a genetic counselor shortly after your diagnosis. New guidelines recommend multi-gene panel genetic testing be offered to all newly diagnosed breast cancer patients, regardless of age or family history.

“Genetic information can be very impactful,” says Justine Snyder, Licensed Genetic Counselor in the Hereditary Cancer Program at St. Elizabeth Healthcare. “Our goal is to help keep patients and their family members healthy by making proactive decisions.”

These proactive decisions could include earlier screening mammograms for family members if specific breast-cancer genes like BRCA1 and BRCA2 are identified, as they can increase the risk of ovarian or breast cancer. Genetic testing gives our patients and their families the information they need to properly and proactively manage their health moving forward.

Genetic testing: what to expect

At St. Elizabeth Healthcare, newly diagnosed breast cancer patients will meet with a genetic counselor during their initial breast surgeon appointment. 

During your meeting with our genetic counselor, you will:  

  • Discuss how genetic testing can potentially impact your breast cancer surgical and treatment plans.
  • Learn how genetic testing has the potential to uncover additional cancer risk for you and your family members.
  • Review your personal medical history and family history of cancer.
  • Discuss the multi-gene panel test and the different results, including positive, negative and uncertain – as well as the significance of each of these results.

Once this information is reviewed and you decide to move forward with the genetic testing, a saliva sample will be collected. Our genetic counselors will also discuss the results timeline with you, which is typically two to four weeks, as well as how the results will be communicated to you. Additionally, GINA law (Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act) and any insurance questions will be covered during this appointment.

Genetic testing: do I have to do it?

Patients occasionally opt out of genetic testing after meeting with St. Elizabeth counselors – and that’s ok.

“Genetic testing is a personal decision,” says Justine. “Patients are given the option to proceed with testing. If they decline to test, we provide our contact information and a brochure in case they decide to proceed at a later date.”

Reasons for opting out include feeling too overwhelmed at the time, concern about out-of-pocket costs and family members not wanting to know the results of the testing. 

No matter what your decision, our expert team of genetic counselors are here anytime to answer any questions or concerns you may have. Please call (859) 301-GENE (4363) to speak with a genetic counselor or to learn more about the Hereditary Cancer Program.