What Is Breast Cancer Genomic Testing

What Is Breast Cancer Genomic Testing?

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What Is Breast Cancer Genomic Testing? from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

What do results of breast cancer genomic testing reveal? Expert Dr. Jame Abraham explains this type of testing and common breast cancer genetic mutations and discusses how tests are typically administered.

Dr. Jame Abraham is the chairman of the Department of Hematology & Medical Oncology at Cleveland Clinic and professor of medicine at Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine. Learn more about Dr. Abraham.

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Dr. Abraham, for breast cancer patients who don’t understand the term, what is genomic testing?   

Dr. Abraham:

So, genomic testing, there are two types of genomic testing, what we call as, germline testing. And then, there’s another one, what we call as, somatic testing. So, germline testing means, the question is, if I carry a gene which can make me high risk for breast cancer. So, one of the most common questions I get from our patients when I see them is, “Oh, do I carry a gene? Why did I get this breast cancer?” And then, the other question is, “What’s the risk for my kids, my daughter?” 

So, I’ve seen, about 5 to 10 percent of breast cancers are due to an abnormal gene. To find that, we do, what we call as, the germline testing. That’s the first – when we say genomic testing, that’s the most commonly understood nomenclature. 

So, do I carry this gene? It’s a blood test, or we can take a mouth swab. That will give us an answer, if that person carries a gene. 

Usually, we test several genes, and I’m sure, most of the people have BRCA1, BRCA2, PALB2, CDH1. Those are some of the genes we test, and BRCA1 and BRCA2 are the most common, and 80 percent of heredity, or those who are transmitted to the next generation, is attributed to BRCA1 and BRCA2.  


How is this testing administered?  

Dr. Abraham:

So, it’s a blood test. 

Most of the time, we can draw – usually, the way we do is, I like to say, if I’m seeing a patient who has – and this is a patient who’s 45 years old and has a strong family history, or in patients under the age of 50, with a triple-negative breast cancer, or any person under the age of 50, can be considered for genetic counseling. And then, based upon the conversation with a genetic counselor, we will recommend the genetic testing. Usually, it’s a blood draw.