Pros and cons of genetic testing for cancer -

Should you be tested for cancer?

Mammograms catch breast cancer early, when it's most curable. For some women with breast cancer in the family, genetic testing may even help prevent it.

Unfortunately, only 41-percent of primary care doctors surveyed suggest the screenings, even though they're recommended.

But specialists like Dr. Mitchell Berger at Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center aren't surprised. "Physicians are sometimes confused about what the recommendations are. They're busy and they may not always ask those questions."

Still, guidelines recommend any woman with a strong family history of breast cancer be tested for the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. When present, they can drastically increase the risk of breast or ovarian cancer. 

There's also a genetic screening for certain kinds of colon cancer.

But Berger says getting more primary care doctors to order those tests will be an education process. "We're trying to open it for people who come in and say 'my sister was recently diagnosed with cancer and she was only 30-something, so I'm concerned whether it's hereditary.'"

Privacy concerns are another issue some doctors have with genetic testing. 

Patients that test positive and don't opt for preventive treatment can still benefit from genetic counseling. If nothing else, it can help them and their families prepare for every possibility.

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