Taking a Genetic Test on Your Own: What You Need to Know

Have you heard about people taking a genetic test on their own and learning about genetic mutations that may raise their risk for breast cancer? This type of test, called a direct-to-consumer genetic test, can be taken at home. It can tell you about your ancestry and genetic traits, including limited information about your risk for diseases like breast cancer.

What You Need To Know
Image of a woman and a DNA gene.

For most women, a direct-to-consumer genetic test may not find if you have a higher risk for breast cancer.

Image of a box with genetic information and a test tube.

The direct-to-consumer genetic test approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) looks for 3—out of more than 1,000—BRCA gene mutations that can increase your risk for breast cancer.

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Direct-to-consumer genetic tests do not take into account non-BRCA gene mutations or non-genetic factors that can increase breast cancer risk.

What To Do

A direct-to-consumer genetic test may not give you a complete understanding of your breast cancer risk, especially if breast cancer runs in your family. If you think you may be at higher risk for breast cancer, it is best to work with a doctor or genetic counselor who can assess your risk, interpret your results, and build an action plan.

Action Steps to Understand and Manage Your Breast Cancer Risk

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Find out if any close relatives on either your mother’s or father’s side have had breast cancer, especially before age 45, or ovarian cancer at any age.

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Tell your doctor about your family history.

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Ask your doctor if you are at high risk because of your family history.

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Ask your doctor about working with a genetic counselor to assess your genetic risk and build an action plan.

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Practice healthy behaviors to lower your risk, like keeping a healthy weight and being physically active.

A negative result on a direct-to-consumer genetic test does not rule out the possibility that you carry other genetic mutations that increase your risk, including other BRCA genetic mutations not found by the test you took. If you have a family history of breast cancer, do not rely on a direct-to-consumer genetic test to assess your risk. Talk to your doctor about your results and what to do next.

Action Steps to Understand and Manage Your Breast Cancer Risk

cancer icon

Find out if any close relatives on either your mother’s or father’s side have had breast cancer, especially before age 45, or ovarian cancer at any age.

people icon

Tell your doctor about your family history.

alert icon

Ask your doctor if you are at high risk because of your family history.

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Tell your doctor about your negative test result.

dna icon

Ask your doctor about working with a genetic counselor to accurately assess your genetic risk and build an action plan.

weight solid icon

Practice healthy behaviors to lower your risk, like keeping a healthy weight and being physically active.

Discuss your test results with your doctor so that he or she can refer you for genetic counseling and you can create an action plan to manage your risk.

Action Steps to Understand and Manage Your Breast Cancer Risk

cancer icon

Find out if any close relatives on either your mother’s or father’s side have had breast cancer, especially before age 45, or ovarian cancer at any age.

people icon

Tell your doctor about your family history.

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Tell your doctor you tested positive for a BRCA mutation.

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Ask your doctor what your results mean and to refer you to a genetic counselor to confirm your test results and build an action plan.

dna icon

Ask your doctor about working with a genetic counselor to assess your genetic risk and build an action plan.

If you are scared or worried, take your test results to your doctor, who is better able to assess your breast cancer risk. Remember that a direct-to-consumer genetic test may not give you a complete understanding of your breast cancer risk, especially if it runs in your family.

Action Steps

cancer icon

Find out if any close relatives on either your mother’s or father’s side have had breast cancer, especially before age 45, or ovarian cancer at any age.

people icon

Tell your doctor about your family history.

files medical icon

Take your results to your doctor, who can help you read them and understand what they mean.

dna icon

Ask your doctor if you need to work with a genetic counselor to accurately assess your genetic risk and build an action plan.

weight solid icon

Practice healthy behaviors to lower your risk, like keeping a healthy weight and being physically active.

A direct-to-consumer genetic test may not give you a complete understanding of your breast cancer risk, especially if breast cancer runs in your family. If you think you may be at higher risk for breast cancer, it is best to work with a doctor or genetic counselor who can assess your risk, interpret your results, and build an action plan.

Action Steps to Understand and Manage Your Breast Cancer Risk

cancer icon

Find out if any close relatives on either your mother’s or father’s side have had breast cancer, especially before age 45, or ovarian cancer at any age.

people icon

Tell your doctor about your family history.

alert icon

Ask your doctor if you are at high risk because of your family history.

dna icon

Ask your doctor about working with a genetic counselor to assess your genetic risk and build an action plan.

weight solid icon

Practice healthy behaviors to lower your risk, like keeping a healthy weight and being physically active.

A negative result on a direct-to-consumer genetic test does not rule out the possibility that you carry other genetic mutations that increase your risk, including other BRCA genetic mutations not found by the test you took. If you have a family history of breast cancer, do not rely on a direct-to-consumer genetic test to assess your risk. Talk to your doctor about your results and what to do next.

Action Steps to Understand and Manage Your Breast Cancer Risk

cancer icon

Find out if any close relatives on either your mother’s or father’s side have had breast cancer, especially before age 45, or ovarian cancer at any age.

people icon

Tell your doctor about your family history.

alert icon

Ask your doctor if you are at high risk because of your family history.

comment alt icon

Tell your doctor about your negative test result.

dna icon

Ask your doctor about working with a genetic counselor to accurately assess your genetic risk and build an action plan.

weight solid icon

Practice healthy behaviors to lower your risk, like keeping a healthy weight and being physically active.

A positive result does not mean you will get breast cancer, though your risk is higher. Discuss your test results with your doctor so that he or she can refer you for genetic counseling and you can create an action plan to manage your risk.

Action Steps to Understand and Manage Your Breast Cancer Risk

cancer icon

Find out if any close relatives on either your mother’s or father’s side have had breast cancer, especially before age 45, or ovarian cancer at any age.

people icon

Tell your doctor about your family history.

comment alt medical icon

Tell your doctor you tested positive for a BRCA mutation.

clipboard icon

Ask your doctor what your results mean and to refer you to a genetic counselor to confirm your test results and build an action plan.

dna icon

Ask your doctor about working with a genetic counselor to assess your genetic risk and build an action plan.

If you are scared or worried, take your test results to your doctor, who is better able to assess your breast cancer risk. Remember that a direct-to-consumer genetic test may not give you a complete understanding of your breast cancer risk, especially if it runs in your family.

Action Steps to Understand and Manage Your Breast Cancer Risk

cancer icon

Find out if any close relatives on either your mother’s or father’s side have had breast cancer, especially before age 45, or ovarian cancer at any age.

people icon

Tell your doctor about your family history.

files medical icon

Take your results to your doctor, who can help you read them and understand what they mean.

dna icon

Ask your doctor if you need to work with a genetic counselor to accurately assess your genetic risk and build an action plan.

weight solid icon

Practice healthy behaviors to lower your risk, like keeping a healthy weight and being physically active.