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Sinclair Cares: Genetic testing can help you check your risk of getting breast cancer

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Finding out she had the BRCA mutation led to additional treatments for McElhaney, which she said have been very successful

"I had a painful lump. It just popped up overnight," said Stephanie McElhaney.

She never imagined it was breast cancer.

"Honestly, cancer was so far off my radar," McElhaney said. "We didn't have cancer in my family."

McElhaney was diagnosed with metaplastic breast cancer.

"It's a very rare type of breast cancer. It typically is more aggressive," said Dr. Brooke Phillips, an oncologist.

Phillips recommended McElhaney see a genetic counselor.

"So, I did my blood test for genetics and it came back that I am BRCA1 positive," McElhaney said.

The BRCA mutation is linked to a higher risk for breast cancer. It used to be that only women with a direct history of breast cancer in their family were tested for it. New guidelines show every woman diagnosed with breast cancer should have genetic testing, and some with a family history of other cancers too.

It's all based on a recent study.

"Where they looked at patients that had a diagnosis of breast cancer and they compared patients that had family history, versus those that did not, and what we found is the percentage of patients that ended up having a genetic mutation was exactly the same," Phillips said.

What's more, is that there may be other types of cancer in your family linked to this same gene mutation, and being tested helps you know how aggressively you should be treated and whether others in your family are at risk.

"Breast cancer, prostate cancer, melanoma -- they kind of all follow together. And so, we are finding sort of the importance of genetic testing in all our patients with breast cancer," Phillips said.

But finding out she had the BRCA mutation led to additional treatments for McElhaney, which she said have been very successful.

"We do have clear margins. So, I am completely thankful for that," McElhaney said.

Her message: with these new guidelines, every woman diagnosed should have genetic testing.

"Even if breast cancer is not on your radar, and you don't have a family history of it, it is something that you should be concerned with," McElhaney said. "You just never know."

In most cases, genetic testing is covered by medical insurance plans. You can ask about testing, even before a diagnosis if cancer runs in your family.

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