Genetic Testing and Counseling

Approximately 5-10 percent of women who develop breast cancer have inherited a breast cancer susceptibility gene. Families which carry alterations in the most common susceptibility genes, BRCA1 and BRCA2, are often characterized by multiple cases of breast cancer occurring at early ages, in both breasts, or together with ovarian cancer. Men who carry these cancer susceptibility genes may also develop breast cancer.

A careful examination of the family tree (also known as a pedigree) may provide clues to the possible causes of increased cancer within a family. A genetic counselor is available in the Breast Center to construct a pedigree and offer information to individuals who are concerned that they may have inherited a breast cancer susceptibility gene.

Our genetic counselor can:

  • Discuss the risks and benefits of undergoing a blood test to determine if a genetic change is present, which would increase an individual's lifetime risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer
  • Assist with determining whether or not this testing is covered by health insurance
  • In conjunction with a physician will discuss how the test results might be used to design a personalized risk reducing health plan

Eligible individuals may enroll in clinical trials designed to develop new prevention therapies/medicines for breast cancer and to improve our understanding of the biology of this type of disease.

Genetic Risk Assessment

If you meet any of the following criteria, we highly recommend that you schedule an appointment for a genetic risk assessment:

  • Personal history of breast cancer diagnosed by age 45
  • Personal history of two or more breast cancers if one was diagnosed by the age of 50
  • Personal history of triple negative breast cancer diagnosed by age 60
  • A close family member who meets one of the previous criteria
  • At least three family members with breast, ovarian, pancreatic or aggressive prostate cancer
  • Personal or family history of ovarian cancer
  • Family history of male breast cancer
  • Known genetic mutation in family
  • Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry and personal or family history of breast or ovarian cancer

For More Information

More information about genetic changes associated with an increased risk of breast cancer can be found at the following web sites:

Meet Our Team

Cathy M. Sullivan, M.S.

Certified Genetic Counselor 
Lester and Sue Smith Breast Center
Baylor College of Medicine

Julie R. Nangia, M.D.

Director of the Breast Cancer High Risk Program
Lester and Sue Smith Breast Center 
Baylor College of Medicine