The Basics: Overview
If your family has a history of breast or ovarian cancer, talk with your doctor or nurse about it. You may be at higher risk for developing these types of cancer.
Talk with your doctor about genetic counseling and testing.
Genetic counseling and genetic testing can help you understand your risk for cancer. Doctors don’t recommend genetic testing for all women, but you may want to consider it if:
- Two or more of your close family members (such as parents, sisters, or children) have had breast or ovarian cancer
- A close family member had breast cancer before age 50
- A close family member has had cancer in both breasts
- A family member had both breast and ovarian cancer
- You have Eastern European Jewish heritage
Genetic testing can’t tell you if you will get cancer or not, but it can show if you have a higher risk. If you do, you can get treatment to help lower your risk.
The Basics: Counseling and Testing
What is genetic counseling?
Genetic counseling is when a trained health professional talks with you about your family health history. Some diseases, such as breast and ovarian cancer, can run in families. Genetic counseling can help you decide whether to get genetic tests.
Find out more about genetic counseling for breast and ovarian cancer.
What is genetic testing?
Genetic tests help doctors look for mutations (changes) in your genes. If you have a mutation in certain genes, such as BRCA1 or BRCA2, you are more likely to get breast or ovarian cancer.
To learn more, check out:
The Basics: Medicine Options
Medicine may help lower your breast cancer risk.
If you are at high risk of getting breast cancer, you can take drugs (medicine) that may help lower your risk. This is called chemo (“KEE-moh”) prevention.
Two drugs approved by the FDA, called tamoxifen and raloxifene, may help lower your risk of getting breast cancer. Scientists are still studying these drugs to find out if they can lower breast cancer risk in women with BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations.
There are side effects and possible risks from taking these drugs, so it’s important to talk with your doctor or nurse about your cancer risk and your prevention options.
Learn more about chemoprevention: