October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. We are taking an in-depth look at genetic testing options.
"While I think that there's a lot of awareness around breast cancer and around breast cancer screening, I think more awareness needs to be raised around breast cancer genetics and breast density," said Dr. Holly Pederson, director of medical breast cancer services at the Cleveland Clinic.
Dr. Pederson says knowing your genes predispose you to developing cancers can be both empowering and life-saving.
Family history of breast and ovarian cancer are key factors. "Newer red flags for hereditary risk are metastatic prostate cancer, prostate cancer that spread to other parts of the body," the doctor told us.
Earlier this year, the FDA granted genetics companies to offer direct to consumer testing for three of the more than 1,000 known variants of the BRCA 1 and BRCA 1 genes.
Dr. Pederson says consumers should not rely solely on this so-called 'do it yourself' screening.
As for annual professional screenings, doctors say in addition to the traditional yearly mammogram, we are seeing new technology as well. "So there's 3D mammograms, whole breast ultrasound and screening breast MRI, which is the most sensitive way to detect breast cancer early."
As for the age in which women should begin screenings for breast cancer, doctors say it can be a little confusing. They say women with extremely dense breast tissue or a family history of cancer should consult with your physician for the best options.