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Sentara Martha Jefferson Monday: Genetic Testing for Breast Cancer

October is breast cancer awareness month.  Our focus this week is on genetic testing for breast cancer. We spoke with Katelyn Blondino, a genetic counselor at Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital to learn more.

Roughly one in eight women will develop breast cancer at some point in their lifetime. While the majority of breast cancers are sporadic and can’t be predicted, for some, genetics can help them better understand their actual risk. 

“About five to 10 percent of all breast cancer is hereditary, meaning it’s caused by a mutation in a gene that’s passed on through the family and that can give people an increased risk to develop breast cancer throughout their lifetime,” noted  Blondino.

Blondino says there are some signs people should be aware of that may signal genetic counseling or testing may be beneficial. "Someone having two or three family members with breast cancer, people that have ovarian cancer in the family, people that have breast cancer diagnosed at an early age."

If testing is done and a positive result comes back, Blondino says women then have options for what to do with the information.  “We can screen them more frequently and at a younger age.  We can also change some of their surgical decisions, if that’s an option for their current breast cancer diagnosis. We can also test other family members." 

She notes that additionally, many people end up talking with their family and having others tested too once they are armed with the information. “I think it gives women a lot of empowerment to try to take control of their own medical history and their own management.” 

A physician referral is needed for a genetic counseling appointment. If you think it might be right for you, the first step is to talk with your doctor. 

For more information on this topic, please call 1-800-SENTARA.  If you have a question about your health, email healthquestions@nbc29.com

Sentara Martha Jefferson Monday

Do you have health questions? Get the answers every Monday morning from the experts in our feature: Sentara Martha Jefferson Monday.

Jenn Downs will meet with the experts of Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital and ask them your questions. You’ll see and hear the answers during NBC29 News at Sunrise every Monday morning.

To submit your questions, email them to healthquestions@nbc29.com. Then, tune in every Monday morning during NBC29 News at Sunrise for Sentara Martha Jefferson Monday.

Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital