Genetic Testing to Guide Risk-Stratified Screens for Breast Cancer

Ava Willoughby, Paul R Andreassen, Amanda Ewart Toland
Journal of Personalized Medicine 2019 March 1, 9 (1)
Breast cancer screening modalities and guidelines continue to evolve and are increasingly based on risk factors, including genetic risk and a personal or family history of cancer. Here, we review genetic testing of high-penetrance hereditary breast and ovarian cancer genes, including BRCA1 and BRCA2 , for the purpose of identifying high-risk individuals who would benefit from earlier screening and more sensitive methods such as magnetic resonance imaging. We also consider risk-based screening in the general population, including whether every woman should be genetically tested for high-risk genes and the potential use of polygenic risk scores. In addition to enabling early detection, the results of genetic screens of breast cancer susceptibility genes can be utilized to guide decision-making about when to elect prophylactic surgeries that reduce cancer risk and the choice of therapeutic options. Variants of uncertain significance, especially missense variants, are being identified during panel testing for hereditary breast and ovarian cancer. A finding of a variant of uncertain significance does not provide a basis for increased cancer surveillance or prophylactic procedures. Given that variant classification is often challenging, we also consider the role of multifactorial statistical analyses by large consortia and functional tests for this purpose.

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