Genetics and Breast Cancer

Posted: October 1, 2021

How do our genes affect our health, and what can we do about it?

This is a question NorthBay Healthcare genetic counselor Karen Vikstrom tries to answer through genetic counseling and testing.

As another Breast Cancer Awareness Month is marked this October, advances in genetics surrounding the disease are helping to arm patients with information that can aid them in their fight and keep their family members healthy as well.

Karen will discuss genetics and disease during a Facebook Live chat at 5:30 p.m. on Dec. 8 on the NorthBay Facebook page.

In the meantime, she reminds patients that advances in genetics are helping scientists develop drugs that can target specific mutations and fight cancer. Advances have also pinpointed genes that cause different cancers. In fact, one gene can cause different kinds of cancers — in different genders, Karen notes. A good example is breast cancer. The most common hereditary breast cancer is caused by the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. BRCA2 can cause breast cancer in a woman and prostate cancer in a man. So genetic counseling can play an important role in helping to catch a cancer early and prevent it in some people.

Any physician at NorthBay can refer a patient for genetic risk evaluation. When a patient is referred, the first step is to get a detailed medical "pedigree" for them. This involves asking lots of questions about a patient’s history and family. Then, if warranted, a saliva or blood sample is collected for genetic testing. If the patient meets the testing criteria, insurance usually covers the cost.

Interested in learning more?

Recent News

Find the best doctor for you.

View our providers in Fairfield and Vacaville.

Find a Specialist