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  • Written By:by Christy Myers, ARRT (R) (M) CN-BI

Did you know that one in eight women born in the U.S. today will develop breast cancer at some point in their lives? As scary as that number may sound, most women survive breast cancer, especially when detected early. Plus, women who are aware of personal risk factors for developing breast cancer have an even better chance of survival. Knowing this can be the first step in prevention, which what those working on the front lines of this effort hope.

A good start is getting an annual mammogram. However, taking advantage of genetic screening is also an important step to empowering yourself in the future. The American Cancer Society and most other authorities in this field, predict more than 271 thousand new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in U.S. women this year. More than 2,600 men will also be affected.

So how do you go about getting genetic testing? Choose to have your mammograms at St. Mary’s Breast Center and receive a genetic risk assessment at no extra cost. The assessment helps verify if further genetic testing is necessary to determine the degree risk for the disease. All we need is some simple information regarding any history of cancer personally or family related.

Depending on the risk level associated with your family history, you may decide to have genetic testing done to determine if any of your genes are the abnormal ones linked to breast and ovarian cancer. BRCA1, BRCA2, PALB2 are three of the most well-known abnormal genes connected with breast cancer. Women who inherit these mutations (abnormal changes), from their parents have a much higher-than-average risk of developing ovarian cancer and breast cancer. Additionally, men with these mutations have an increased risk of breast cancer, (higher if the BRCA2 gene is affected) and prostate cancer.

The genes BRCA and PALB2 function to keep breast cells growing normally, preventing cancer growth. However, when a person inherits a mutated form of these genes, they are more likely to malfunction and the risk of breast cancer increases. While not proven, it is speculated that up to 10% of all breast cancers are linked to abnormal BRCA and PALB2 genes.

Interested in genetic testing? St. Mary’s Breast Center would be happy to set you up with a genetic counselor to discuss all the risks and benefits. Qualifications are based on both family and personal cancer history. You can get tested one of two ways, a BUCCAL/Saliva test or a blood test. The test is a test panel for 25 genes, 13 of which are associated with breast cancer. There are a total of 25 genes tested for connected to hereditary cancers such as,

  • breast
  • colorectal
  • gastric
  • endometrial
  • melanoma
  • ovarian
  • pancreatic
  • prostate

If you, or someone you know has a family history of hereditary cancer, I urge you to take the initiative that could have life-saving results. Not sure about your family history? Check out the online risk assessment available through our website at Always feel free to call the Breast Center with any questions.

At St. Mary’s we are celebrating Cinco de Mammo through May 10. We hope to encourage women to get their annual mammogram before the typical October rush during Breast Cancer Awareness Month. We are giving away Cinco de Mayo themes goodies and raffling off some restaurant gift certificates among other activities. Please feel free to walk-in or make an appointment by calling 816-307-0084.

Christy Myers is a Breast Center Navigator at St. Mary’s Medical Center and can be reached at 816-655-5767.