Skip to main content

Patient Perspective: Discovering Genetic Cancer Risk

Katie’s Hereditary Cancer Story

Katie was concerned about her risk for cancer after her mother died of breast cancer at a young age. She had heard of genetic testing and was curious about it, but wasn’t sure where she could get it. She brought it up during her annual OB/GYN checkup, and he asked her to fill out a short form about her family history. When he saw her mother’s young diagnosis, he immediately recommended she get tested. Katie agreed without hesitation.

“I knew it needed to be done and I wanted to get it done. I didn’t think about what the future would be. I just wanted to know.”

The test itself was easy, just a simple blood draw, but getting results that confirmed her fears was unnerving. Katie learned that she was a carrier for BRCA1, a genetic variant that confers an 87% lifetime risk of developing breast cancer. At first, she felt lost—she’d wanted genetic testing but hadn’t thought about how she’d react to the results.

Taking Action

Katie went on to work with a genetic counselor to learn more about steps she could take to reduce her risk of cancer. She started with more frequent mammograms and breast ultrasounds, getting scans every 6 months to detect changes as early as possible. After connecting with breast cancer patients and survivors in her community, she decided to talk to a friend’s breast surgeon. Katie ultimately opted for a double mastectomy to dramatically reduce her cancer risk.

Peace of Mind

Today, Katie is happy she got tested and took steps to mitigate her risk. She’s working with a doctor specializing in high-risk patients to develop a comprehensive screening strategy for other organs that BRCA1 may impact. She feels confident that she’ll be there for her kids and that they won’t have to experience losing their mother the way that she did.

alt text

Taking Action

Following her results, Katie has encouraged everyone in her family and everyone she knows to get tested. Thanks to this, her younger sister Hannah discovered she was also a BRCA1 carrier and was able to take steps to reduce her risk as well. The sisters now know that genetics likely played a role in the cancer that took their mother. Both are strong advocates for getting hereditary cancer testing to enable proactive decisions to reduce risk.

“Get it if you can. It’s so much better to know.”

Move Forward With Empower

If a patient is concerned about patterns of cancer in their family, Natera can help. The Empower Hereditary Cancer Test analyzes genes associated with risk for common hereditary cancers for mutations and variants that increase cancer risk. Natera is proud to be an in-network provider with most health plans, including Anthem, Cigna, and UnitedHealthcare, and testing for first-degree relatives of patients with a positive result is available at no additional charge.*

*Order must be received within 90 days of original report date. Panel must be the same size or smaller compared to previous relative’s test order. Not available to family members covered by government insurance plans.