Genetic Services for Hereditary Breast Cancer

Knowing your family history can help prevent and detect many diseases. In particular, some cancers can be hereditary, including breast cancer and ovarian cancer.

At the Scott & White Cancer Genetics Clinic, we offer genetic testing to assess your risk and help diagnose conditions that can increase the risk of developing cancer of the breast or ovaries. Our genetics team is lead by Maria Blazo, MD. Dr. Blazo specializes in medical genetics and was fellowship-trained in clinical genetics at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.

The good news is that the majority of breast and ovarian cancers are not inherited. If you have a family history of the disease, your doctor may recommend genetic testing as a precaution.

Frequently Asked Questions

For more information, please call us at 254-724-3379.

How Common Is Hereditary Breast Cancer?

  • 5 to 10 percent of breast cancers are hereditary, and most hereditary breast cancer is caused by changes in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes
  • 90 percent of all breast cancers appear to be sporadic (or happening by chance)

Genetic testing is available to help identify individuals and families who carry one of these gene changes and are at an increased risk to develop breast cancer and ovarian cancer.

Special high-risk screening guidelines and management options are available for individuals and families identified as high- risk for hereditary breast and ovarian cancer, including more frequent mammograms, breast MRIs, ovarian cancer screening and surgical options.

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What Is the Scott & White Cancer Genetics Clinic?

At the Scott & White Cancer Genetics Clinic, we offer genetic risk assessment and assist in the diagnosis of conditions that increase the risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer. We offer genetic testing for individuals and families who might have hereditary breast and ovarian cancer, as well as provide patients with resources and psychosocial support.

Resources available include print materials on hereditary breast and ovarian cancer, referrals to support organizations for these families, and helpful websites for learning more about the condition.

Support organizations include:

Bright Pink, a national nonprofit organization that provides education and support to young women at highrisk for breast and ovarian cancer. Visit their website at

Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered (FORCE), created for women whose family history puts them at high risk for ovarian and/or breast cancer. Visit their website at

Our genetic counselor also provides psychosocial support throughout the genetic testing process, and referrals can be made to chaplains and oncology social workers for follow-up counseling, if necessary.

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Who May Be Referred to the Genetics Clinic?

  • Breast cancer diagnosed at or before 50 years of age
  • Bilateral cancer (or two breast primaries) diagnosed at any age
  • Breast cancer diagnosed at any age and a family history of two or more relatives diagnosed with breast cancer at any age
  • Breast cancer diagnosed at any age and one or more of the following:
    • Personal history of ovarian cancer
    • Family history of ovarian cancer
    • Family history of breast cancer diagnosed at or before 50 years of age
    • Family history of male breast cancer
    • Family history of pancreatic cancer
    • Personal or family history of colorectal cancer
    • Personal or family history of follicular thyroid cancer, endometrial cancer, and/or dermatologic manifestations of Cowden syndrome
    • Personal or family history of sarcoma, adrenocortical cancer, brain tumors, or leukemia/lymphoma
    • Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry
  • Men with a personal history of breast cancer
  • Family history of a known alteration for a cancer predisposition syndrome

If you are concerned that your cancer or the cancer in your family may be hereditary, we encourage you to ask your physician or oncologist about a referral to a specialty cancer genetics clinic for counseling.

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What Should I Expect at a Genetics Appointment?

Each patient meets with a board-certified Clinical Geneticist and a Genetic Counselor for a genetic risk assessment. During your visit, we will review your medical history and discuss your family history in detail. We also review basic genetic concepts and inheritance patterns and explain any relevant genetic testing.

“If you decide to have genetic testing done for hereditary breast and ovarian cancer, you will receive a blood test. Your blood sample is sent away for evaluation. The results of the genetic testing take a few weeks to come back, and we will discuss these results with you at a follow-up appointment,” says Maria Blazo, MD, clinical geneticist at Scott & White Healthcare.

Dr. Blazo says, “If a genetic alteration is found, we will meet with you to discuss what this means for you as well as your family. We will give you a letter to share with your family members who are at risk to carry the same alteration. We are happy to meet with any family members who would like more information or who are interested in being testing for the genetic alteration.”

“We will also refer you to the necessary specialists to coordinate your increased screening — such as with the High-Risk Breast Clinic with Dr. Kathy Kimmey — or discuss possible surgical options—such as with Dr. Charles Capen in Gynecologic Oncology,” says Dr. Blazo.

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Who Benefits from a Genetic Evaluation?

Scott & White it trying to reach the 10 percent of women with the inherited form of breast cancer and get them tested for a genetic alteration known as BRCA. We check for a family history of breast cancer and perform a blood test. Then, if the patient has a genetic alteration, we test other members of his or her family. In addition, it's important to know that there is a strong connection between breast and ovarian cancer.

By getting tested, you’re not only helping yourself but also your children, siblings and your parents. And if you test positive, there’s something we can do to help your son or daughter before they might be affected.

It’s important to screen only those patients with a strong family history and we test only breast cancer patients and the relatives of a positive patient. A patient has up to 80 percent chance of developing breast cancer if he or she has the genetic alteration, and up to a 40 percent chance of getting ovarian cancer if she tests positive.

So, unlike many other conditions that you can get genetic testing for, you can actually do something for relatives of patients who test positive by watching them closely and screening them aggressively.

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Is Genetic Testing Always Informative?

A positive test result means that a gene alteration has been identified, thus increasing a person’s risk of developing breast cancer in his or her lifetime. When an individual tests negative for BRCA1 and BRCA2, it does not eliminate the possibility that breast cancer can occur. However, it can eliminate an important risk factor in the development of breast and ovarian cancer on a purely genetic basis.

The presence of a gene alteration does not mean that patient will develop cancer, but indicates a significant risk that cancer will develop during that person’s lifetime. Conversely, a negative test result doesn’t mean that a patient will remain cancer free, as he or she may still develop breast cancer on a sporadic basis or within a family cluster.

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What About Insurance?

Current legislation protects an individual who has undergone genetic testing, and information obtained cannot be used adversely for employment or employee insurance coverage. Many insurance companies will pay all or part of genetic testing. Insurance coverage can be verified prior to testing, or patients have the option to pay out of pocket if they prefer anonymous testing.

The U.S. Surgeon General’s website offers software that can be used to record one’s family pedigree at

Genetic testing is a process, but being informed could save your life,.

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Maria Blazo
Sheila Marcks Dobin