Genetic Testing

Preventing hereditary female cancer in your family.

It’s estimated that 10 percent of cancers are based on genetics -- including 10 percent of ovarian cancer cases and 7 percent of breast cancer cases. Genetic cancer (also called hereditary cancer) is passed down through generations of families by changes (inherited mutations) in cancer-sensitive genes.

Our geneticists in Detroit and West Bloomfield work closely with the women’s cancer team to screen for specific cancer-sensitive genes that signal hereditary cancers. We do this to help prevent breast cancer ovarian cancer, and other hereditary cancers in future generations of families. Screening tests like genetic testing are the best way to reduce female cancer risk.

Risk reduction for families

The best-known cancer genes are BRCA1 and BRCA2. These genes are associated with genetic breast and ovarian cancer. Not every person with changes in their BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes will develop cancer, but the risk for breast and ovarian cancer increases in people with changes in these genes.

Both men and women have the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. That means changes in the genes can be passed down from either parent. Genetic testing may be offered for people with a personal or family history of:

Finding genetic changes in women with breast or ovarian cancer can help guide important healthcare decisions for them and their families. Some women diagnosed with breast or ovarian cancer may choose genetic testing to help their children and grandchildren become more aware of their cancer risk. Genetic counseling also is available for family members. Your doctor can recommend whether genetic testing is appropriate for your type of cancer.

Our doctors work with board certified reproductive geneticists who are specially trained in cancer genetics. We also are actively developing a sentinel lymph node mapping program. The sentinel lymph node is the one that is most likely to be affected by a spreading cancer first. The goal of our mapping program is to help doctors identify the sentinel lymph node easier, biopsy it, and determine if other lymph nodes should be removed.

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Cancer Institute