What Should I Do if My Family is Pressuring Me to Get a Genetic Test for Breast Cancer?

Question:What should I do if my family is pressuring me to get a genetic test for breast cancer?

Answer: Those of us who provide the service and help facilitate genetic testing for mutations in the breast and ovarian cancer genes feel very strongly that nobody should be pressured into taking one of these tests. It's a hugely personal choice and we sit down and talk with people for a couple of hours before proceeding with testing. So it's not as simple as just drawing a sample of blood and sending it off to the lab. There needs to be a very clear understanding of the risks and benefits and limitations of the test.

This gets complicated in families because in some situations it may not be the person who's the most interested in finding out the answer. That is, the first person in the family that should be tested in this hereditary cancer syndromes, it's ideal to test an affected family member first. So a person who's had breast or ovarian cancer is the first one that needs to be tested. It doesn't mean you can't test a non-affected person, but the information that you get is not as valuable and not as concrete. So it's very valuable to make sure that you get family members together and that there's not any coercion or arm-twisting to try and get an affected family member tested. It just points out the extreme value of sitting down and counseling with families who are interested in learning more about this.

Next: Are Most Breast Cancers Genetically Inherited?

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