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.

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It’s important to know that this type of test may not give you a full understanding of your breast cancer risk, especially if breast cancer runs in your family.

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

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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.