Genetic Testing for Breast Cancer May Benefit Family Members


An expert explained that patients with breast cancer who undergo genetic testing may help their family members, regardless of whether patients have children.

Although some patients with breast cancer may not have children, undergoing genetic testing may still be beneficial for other family members, said Dr. Jennifer Plichta, associate professor of surgery and population health sciences at Duke University and director of the breast risk assessment clinic at Duke Cancer Institute.

At the 2024 Miami Breast Cancer Conference, CURE® spoke with Plichta about conversations patients with breast cancer should be having with their health care teams regarding genetic testing.

READ MORE: Field of Cancer Genetics ‘Blossomed’ in Last Decade


Patients should be asking, ‘Is this something I need to consider? Should I be considering genetic testing? Might this have implications not only for my treatment but other cancers I might be at risk for or even for my family members?’

Sometimes you'll have patients that you'll meet that don't have children, great, no problem. But that doesn't always mean that there are other family members — perhaps they have a sibling, and that sibling has children. So maybe it has implications for their brother, their sister, their nieces, their nephews.

Sometimes I have an older patient who's like, ‘Oh, I'm too old, it doesn't matter to me.’ But again, same thing, perhaps it would have implications for their family members. And the most informative person to test is always the person who's had cancer. So if there's someone in the family who's had cancer, those are the ideal people in the family to test. So even if the person in front of you might not do anything with that information, which is totally fine, it's just information. You don't have to act on it. But it could be stuff that their family members could benefit from knowing so that they could consider whether or not they want to undergo genetic testing. And if they do, and it turns out to be positive, what decisions might they want to make that would help impact their future health?

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