Evaluating Your Situation

From general curiosity to a significant family history of breast and ovarian cancer, there are so many factors that might lead you to consider genetic testing. But, regardless of your reason, certain things should be considered universally.

Connecting the Dots

Your healthcare provider is likely to recommend testing if you have certain medically significant risk factors. If your personal or family health history includes any of the following (from the National Comprehensive Cancer Network), you should strongly consider testing.

  • Breast cancer by age 40
  • Breast cancer by 50 AND a close relative with breast or ovarian cancer by 50
  • Male breast cancer in family
  • Breast cancer at any age AND 2 or more relatives with breast cancer at any age
  • Cancer in both breasts
  • Ovarian, primary peritoneal or fallopian cancer at any age
  • A close relative with a BRCA mutation
  • Triple negative breast cancer

But there are plenty of other reasons to consider genetic testing. For some, testing may help fill in knowledge gaps when family health history information is simply not available. For others who were previously tested, advances in genetic testing technology may mean additional testing can address unanswered questions.

The decision to undergo testing can also come down to basic curiosity. If you’re weighing the decision, talking to a genetic counselor can help you better understand the benefits and risks that come with the process.

But, at the end of the day, the more you understand your personal risk for breast and ovarian cancer, the more likely you are to make the choice that’s right for you. And when it comes to understanding your risk, there are lots of great tools to help you connect the dots.



Evaluating Your Situation

Plan Ahead: Things to Think About Beforehand

As you’re deciding whether to get genetic testing, it’s important to start thinking about what you will do with your results. If you do test positive for a gene mutation, thinking ahead gives you a chance to understand the various risk-reducing options that will be available to you. If you test negative, you’ll want to think about how you will go about developing an appropriate risk management plan. You may also want to think about how your results will impact various family members.


It’s important to think about the role your family will play throughout the genetic testing process.

  • Find out how your family wants to be involved. Some relatives may be ready to talk right away. Others will engage more slowly. And some may want to avoid the subject completely. But thinking ahead to the conversations you’ll need to have makes it easier to respect everyone’s wishes.
  • Talking about your testing decision can be a natural way to get more information and clarity about your family history.
  • Talking through your decision can help other family members understand the implications for them. If you’re positive for a mutation, there’s a 50% chance your parent, sibling or child carries the mutation, too.
  • Weigh the pros and cons of talking about your decision to undergo genetic testing with your children. Do you want to involve them early on – or will it be better to wait until you get your results? Are they old enough to understand?

Conversations with family are never one size fits all. Start by putting some thought into what makes the most sense for you and go from there.


Sometimes it just makes sense to bring in an expert. Genetic counselors – master’s-level health professionals – are a great resource for all your questions about genetic testing and breast and ovarian cancer risk. They’re trained to help you work through the entire genetic testing process, including the things you might not think to consider:

  • Interpreting your family history
  • Helping you work through different results scenarios and how you might respond to them
  • Gauging how different results may impact your family

Talking with a genetic counselor doesn’t mean you have to get tested. At the end of the day, it’s your decision. But if you do decide to move forward with testing, your genetic counselor can order your test and be the person who delivers your results.