Testing is costly and, in many cases, not covered by insurance, even for women in the high-risk category. Women interested in testing should speak with a genetic counselor, Brawley advised.
And if they do test positive for a dangerous genetic mutation, they might want to weigh the risks of surgery against other possible preemptive alternatives such as more aggressive screening or medication.
"Mastectomy isn't the only option and is certainly not the right option for everyone," he said.
Brawley said that for the typical women, regular mammography screening is the best way to monitor breast-cancer risk. For women with no family history and who don't have other factors increasing their risk of developing breast cancer, the American Cancer Society recommends a yearly mammogram starting at age 40. Other groups, such as the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, advise women to begin screening at age 50 and repeat the test every two years.
Breast cancer-prevention tweet chat today at 1 p.m. ET
Join Dr. Richard Besser, ABC News chief health and medical correspondent, for a tweet chat today at 1 p.m., ET on breast cancer prevention.
While only a fraction of breast-cancer cases are linked to genetic mutations -- as was the case with Jolie -- there are many other risk factors associated with breast cancer, including age, environment and lifestyle. Our experts will discuss how you can find out what your risk factors are and take what steps you can take to lower your chances of developing the disease.
Besser will be joined by doctors from top hospitals all over the country as well as medical experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, The American Cancer Society and various chapters of the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.
Click here to find out how easy it is to join the conversation.