Genetic Testing for Breast and Ovarian Cancer: Questions for the doctor

Genetic counseling and testing can help you understand your risk for cancer. Genetic tests help doctors look for mutations (changes) in certain genes.

If you have a mutation in the BRCA1 gene or the BRCA2 gene, you are more likely to develop breast or ovarian cancer.

Talk with your doctor about genetic testing for breast and ovarian cancer if:

  • Two or more close family members (parents, siblings, or children) have had breast or ovarian cancer
  • A close family member had breast cancer before age 50
  • A close family member has had cancer in both breasts
  • A family member has had both breast and ovarian cancer
  • You are of Eastern European Jewish heritage

If genetic tests show that you are at higher risk of developing breast or ovarian cancer, you and your doctor can discuss options for lowering your risk.

The Affordable Care Act covers counseling about genetic testing for some women. Depending on your insurance plan, you may be able to get counseling at no cost to you. Talk to your insurance provider.

What do I ask the doctor?

Visiting the doctor can be stressful. It helps to have questions written down before your appointment. Print these questions and take them with you when you visit the doctor.

  • What is my risk for developing breast or ovarian cancer?
  • Are there warning signs I can look out for?
  • Would you recommend genetic testing to learn more about my risk?
  • What are the benefits and risks of genetic testing?
  • What are my chances of having a mutated (changed) gene that could increase my risk for cancer?
  • What would a positive or negative test result mean for me?
  • If I have a mutated gene, what options will be available to me?
  • If I get tested, who will be able to see my test results?
  • Besides mutated genes, what other things increase my risk for breast and ovarian cancer?
  • What types of cancer screenings are recommended if I decide not to do genetic testing?
  • Is there information I can take with me about preventing breast or ovarian cancer?

Talk with a Doctor If Breast or Ovarian Cancer Runs in Your Family

If your family has a history of breast or ovarian cancer, talk with your doctor or nurse about it. You may be at higher risk for developing these types of cancer.

Talk with your doctor about genetic counseling and testing.
Genetic counseling and genetic testing can help you understand your risk for cancer. Doctors don’t recommend genetic testing for all women, but you may want to consider it if:

  • Two or more of your close family members (such as parents, sisters, or children) have had breast or ovarian cancer
  • A close family member had breast cancer before age 50
  • A close family member has had cancer in both breasts
  • A family member had both breast and ovarian cancer
  • You have Eastern European Jewish heritage

Genetic testing can’t tell you if you will get cancer or not, but it can show if you have a higher risk. If you do, you can get treatment to help lower your risk.

What is genetic counseling?
Genetic counseling is when a trained health professional talks with you about your family health history. Some diseases, such as breast and ovarian cancer, can run in families. Genetic counseling can help you decide whether to get genetic tests.

Find out more about genetic counseling for breast and ovarian cancer.

What is genetic testing?
Genetic tests help doctors look for mutations (changes) in your genes. If you have a mutation in certain genes, such as BRCA1 or BRCA2, you are more likely to get breast or ovarian cancer.

To learn more, check out:

Medicine may help lower your breast cancer risk.
If you are at high risk of getting breast cancer, you can take drugs (medicine) that may help lower your risk. This is called chemo (“KEE-moh”) prevention.

Two drugs approved by the FDA, called tamoxifen and raloxifene, may help lower your risk of getting breast cancer. Scientists are still studying these drugs to find out if they can lower breast cancer risk in women with BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations.

There are side effects and possible risks from taking these drugs, so it’s important to talk with your doctor or nurse about your cancer risk and your prevention options.

Learn more about chemoprevention:

Take Action!

Start by talking with a doctor or nurse about your cancer risk.

Talk with a doctor about your family health history.
Use this family health history tool to keep track of the diseases that run in your family. Share the information with your doctor or nurse.

Ask about ways to lower your risk.
All women can take steps to lower their risk for breast or ovarian cancer. Ask your doctor for advice. You can also learn more at these websites:

What about cost?
The Affordable Care Act – the health care reform law passed in 2010 – covers these services for women at higher risk of getting breast cancer:

  • Counseling about BRCA genetic testing
  • Counseling about breast cancer chemoprevention

Depending on your insurance plan, you may be able to get counseling at no cost to you. Check with your insurance provider to find out what’s included in your plan.

For information about other services covered by the Affordable Care Act, visit HealthCare.gov.

Make a list of questions for the doctor.
You may want to ask your doctor or a genetic counselor these questions:

  • Based on my family’s health history, do you recommend genetic testing?
  • What are my chances of having a mutated (changed) gene that could increase my risk for cancer?
  • Besides mutated genes, what else can increase my risk for breast and ovarian cancer?
  • What types of cancer screenings are recommended if I decide not to do genetic testing?
  • If I get a genetic test, who will be able to see my test results?

Take this list of questions about genetic testing to your next doctor’s appointment.

Think about how you may feel.
If you are thinking about genetic testing for breast or ovarian cancer, first think about what you will learn and how the results will affect you and your family. External Links Disclaimer Logo

Here are some questions to think about:

  • If I get tested, will I be more worried about getting sick?
  • Will I share the test results with my spouse or partner? My children? Family and friends? How will they react to the news?
  • Are my children ready to learn new information that may one day affect their health?

You and your doctor can decide whether genetic counseling and testing makes sense for you. But whatever you decide, remember that all women still need regular cancer screenings and checkups.

Get tested for breast cancer.
If you are age 50 to 74, get tested for breast cancer every 2 years. If you are age 40 to 49, talk with your doctor about when and how often to get tested.

Get your well-woman visit.
Get a well-woman visit every year. Use this visit to talk with your doctor or nurse about important screenings and services to help you stay healthy.

Get Tested for Breast Cancer

Mammograms can help find breast cancer early. Most women can survive breast cancer if it’s found and treated early.

Women ages 40 to 49:

  • Talk with your doctor about when to start getting mammograms and how often you need them.

Women ages 50 to 74:

  • Get mammograms every 2 years. Talk with your doctor to decide if you need them more often.

What is a mammogram?
A mammogram is an x-ray of the breast. Mammograms use a very low level of x-rays, which are a type of radiation. A mammogram is very safe.

When you get mammograms, the nurse will place your breasts, one at a time, between 2 plastic plates and take pictures of them. Mammograms can be uncomfortable for some women, but they don’t hurt.

It takes about 20 minutes to get mammograms.

What if the doctor finds something wrong with my breast?
Mammograms let the doctor or nurse look for small lumps inside your breast. If a lump is found, you will need other tests to find out if it’s cancer.

The doctor or nurse may take a small bit of tissue from the lump for testing. This is called a biopsy (“BY-op-see”).

What is breast cancer?
Abnormal (unusual) cells in the breast can turn into cancer. Breast cancer can spread to other parts of the body.

About 1 in 8 women born today in the United States will get breast cancer. After skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common kind of cancer in women. The good news is that most women survive breast cancer when it’s found and treated early.

Talk with your doctor or nurse if you notice any of these changes:

  • A lump in the breast
  • A change in size, shape, or feel of the breast
  • Fluid (called discharge) coming out of a nipple

To learn more about breast cancer, check out “What You Need To Know About Breast Cancer.”

Take Action!

Talk with your doctor about when and how often to get mammograms.

Ask the doctor about your breast cancer risk. 

Together, you and your doctor can decide what’s best for you.

What about cost?
The Affordable Care Act, the health care reform law passed in 2010, covers mammograms for women over age 40. Depending on your insurance plan, you may be able to get mammograms at no cost to you.

Check with your insurance company to find out what’s included in your plan. For information about other services covered by the Affordable Care Act, visit HealthCare.gov.

If you don’t have private insurance, you can still get mammograms.

Get support.
Use these tips to get support when you get mammograms.

  • Ask other women who have had mammograms about what to expect.
  • When you go to get mammograms, ask a family member or friend to go with you.

Make sure to ask when you will get your mammogram results. When you get the results, ask the doctor or nurse to explain what the results mean [PDF - 3 MB].

Get active.
Getting active increases your chances of living longer. Physical activity may help prevent breast cancer, colorectal cancer, and heart disease.

Get your well-woman visit.
Get a well-woman visit every year. Use this visit to talk with your doctor or nurse about important screenings and services to help you stay healthy.

Take Steps to Prevent Type 2 Diabetes

Take Steps to Prevent Type 2 Diabetes

You can do a lot to prevent or delay getting type 2 diabetes (“dy-ah-BEE-teez”), including:

  • Watching your weight
  • Eating healthy
  • Staying active

Diabetes is one of the leading causes of disability and death in the United States. If it’s not controlled, diabetes can cause serious health problems.

The good news is that the small steps you take to prevent diabetes can lead to big rewards.

What is diabetes?
Diabetes is a disease. People with diabetes have too much glucose (sugar) in their blood.

Your body depends on glucose for energy. When you eat, the food turns into glucose. Your blood carries the glucose to other parts of your body.

When you have diabetes, your body has trouble turning glucose into energy. Instead of being used by your body, the glucose builds up in your blood. The rest of your body is starved of energy.

Diabetes can’t be cured, but it can be controlled. If it’s not controlled, diabetes can lead to:

  • Blindness
  • Nerve damage
  • Kidney disease
  • Heart disease
  • Stroke

To learn more about how diabetes affects the body, visit:

What is type 2 diabetes?
There is more than one type of diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes. People who are overweight are more likely to get type 2 diabetes.

Am I at risk for diabetes?
You may be at risk for type 2 diabetes if you:

  • Are age 45 or older
  • Are overweight
  • Have a parent or sibling with diabetes
  • Are African American, Hispanic or Latino American, American Indian, Asian American, or Pacific Islander
  • Have had diabetes during pregnancy (gestational diabetes) or have had a baby with a birth weight of more than 9 pounds
  • Have high blood pressure or cholesterol
  • Exercise less than 3 times a week
  • Have pre-diabetes

What is pre-diabetes?
Pre-diabetes means the amount of glucose in your blood is higher than normal. If you have pre-diabetes, you are at risk for type 2 diabetes and other serious health problems, like heart disease and stroke. Find out more about pre-diabetes.

What are the signs of diabetes?
Many people with diabetes don’t know they have the disease. Some signs of diabetes include:

  • Being very thirsty or very hungry
  • Feeling tired for no reason
  • Urinating (going to the bathroom) more than usual
  • Losing weight for no reason
  • Having cuts or bruises that are slow to heal
  • Having trouble seeing (blurry vision)
  • Losing feeling or having tingling in your hands or feet

Not everyone who has diabetes has these signs. If you have any of these signs or think you may be at risk, talk with your doctor about getting tested for diabetes.

Take Action!

Take these steps to prevent or delay type 2 diabetes.

Talk to a doctor about your diabetes risk.
Use this tool to find out if you are at risk for diabetes. External Links Disclaimer Logo Print out the results and take them to your next checkup.

What about cost?
Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, the health care reform law passed in 2010, insurance plans cover these services related to diabetes risk:

  • Diabetes screening for adults with high blood pressure
  • Diet counseling for adults at higher risk for chronic disease

Depending on your insurance plan, you may be able to get these services at no cost to you. Check with your insurance provider to find out what’s included in your plan.

For information about other services covered by the Affordable Care Act, visit HealthCare.gov.

Eat healthy.
Eating healthy foods can help you control your weight – and prevent or delay type 2 diabetes.

Choose foods low in fat, cholesterol, and salt. Try these tips to cut down on fat and calories.

Get active.
Getting active can lower your risk of type 2 diabetes. Aim for 2 hours and 30 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity, like walking fast or biking.

If you have a health condition or disability, be as active as you can be. Use these tips to stay active with a disability. Your doctor can help you choose the best activities for you.

Watch your weight.
Studies show that losing 5 to 7 percent of your body weight can lower your risk of getting type 2 diabetes. If you weigh 200 pounds, 7 percent of your body weight is 14 pounds.

Try using a notebook or journal to write down:

To get started, use this food and activity tracking tool for a week.

Check out these other tips to help you reach a healthy weight.

Get your blood pressure and cholesterol checked.

Protect Your Family from Food Poisoning

The Basics

Food poisoning (or foodborne illness) happens when you get sick from eating or drinking something that has harmful germs in it – like bacteria, viruses, or parasites. Two common causes of food poisoning are E. coli and Salmonella.

Following good habits like these can help protect you and your family from food poisoning:

  • Buy food from stores that look and smell clean.
  • Don’t buy food past “sell by,” “use by,” or other expiration dates.
  • Wash your hands often with warm water and soap – especially before and after touching food.
  • Make sure food is cooked to a safe temperature.
  • Keep raw meat and seafood away from cooked and ready-to-eat food.
  • Keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot. This helps prevent bacteria from growing.

What causes food poisoning?
You can get food poisoning from eating bad (contaminated) food. Bacteria are the most common cause of food poisoning. Bacteria can get into food in many ways.

  • Foods may have some bacteria on them when you buy them.
  • Raw meat, poultry (like chicken and turkey), fish, vegetables, and fruit may pick up bacteria where they are grown or packaged.
  • Foods can also pick up bacteria at the store or in the kitchen. This usually happens when food that needs to be kept cold is left out at room temperature for more than 2 hours.

How do I know if I have food poisoning?
Some signs of food poisoning include:

  • Stomach cramps
  • Vomiting (throwing up)
  • Diarrhea (frequent, watery poop)
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Body aches

Signs of food poisoning can start hours or even days after eating bad food. Usually the effects only last for 1 or 2 days, but they may last up to 2 weeks.

The treatment for most cases of food poisoning is to drink lots of fluids, like water. For a more serious illness, you may need treatment at a hospital.

When do I need to see a doctor?
Get medical help right away if you:

  • Are throwing up many times a day for more than 2 days
  • Can’t drink or keep down any liquids for 24 hours
  • Have blood in your vomit or stools (poop)
  • Have a fever higher than 101.5 °F (degrees Fahrenheit)
  • Have extreme pain or cramping in your stomach
  • Are feeling very weak, dizzy, or lightheaded

Who needs to be concerned about food poisoning?
Anyone can get sick from eating bad food. But food poisoning is a serious health risk for some people.

Get tips on food safety for:

Take Action!

Follow these simple steps to keep your family safe from food poisoning.

Shop smart when you buy food.
Shop at stores that look and smell clean. A dirty store or a bad smell can be a sign that food hasn’t been stored safely.

Follow these other safety tips when you choose food at the store:

  • Check the expiration (“use by” or “sell by”) dates on everything you buy.
  • Don’t buy cans that are leaking, bulging, rusty, or badly dented.
  • Don’t buy bottles or jars with “popped” lids or broken seals.
  • Make sure frozen food packages aren’t open or crushed.
  • Buy eggs that have been kept in the store’s refrigerated section. Make sure they are free of cracks and liquid.
  • Put meat, fish, and poultry (like chicken and turkey) in plastic bags – or separate them from other food in your shopping cart. This will keep them from dripping onto your other food.

Make sure frozen food stays frozen.

  • Shop for frozen foods last so they are less likely to thaw before you get them home.
  • Avoid packages with frost or ice crystals – these are signs that the food became warm and then refroze.

Plan ahead to get food home safely.
Put cold foods into a refrigerator or freezer as soon as possible. To keep cold foods safe, follow these tips:

  • Put cold food in the refrigerator within 2 hours. If it’s a hot day – over 90 °F (degrees Fahrenheit) – refrigerate cold foods within 1 hour.
  • If you have other errands to do, save food shopping for last.
  • If you live far from the store, pack a cooler with ice for your cold items.
  • If it’s a hot day and you have the air conditioning on in your car, keep groceries in the passenger area instead of the trunk. This will help keep them cool.
  • Put cold foods in the refrigerator or freezer as soon as you get home.

Protect yourself from food poisoning at home.
After you get your groceries home and stored away safely, use the following tips to help prevent food poisoning.

Keep your hands clean.
Wash your hands often with warm water and soap, especially:

  • Before and after handling food
  • After using the bathroom
  • After changing a diaper
  • After touching pets

Wash your utensils.
Make sure to wash cutting boards, dishes, utensils (like knives and spoons), and counters with hot, soapy water after preparing each food item.

Separate raw meat, poultry, and seafood from ready-to-eat foods.
Use one cutting board for raw meat, poultry, and seafood and another one for fresh foods (like vegetables and fruits). If you have only one cutting board, wash it with hot soapy water after you prepare each type of food.

Place cooked food onto a clean plate. Don’t use a plate that had raw or uncooked food on it – especially raw meat, poultry, or seafood.

Prepare food safely.
Wash all fruits and vegetables under running water, even if you plan to cut or peel them.

Make sure food is safely cooked.
You can’t tell if meat, poultry, and eggs are cooked just by looking at them.

The only way to be sure food is cooked safely is to use a food thermometer. A food thermometer checks the temperature inside the food to make sure the food is safe to eat.

Keep cold foods cold.
Refrigerate or freeze all food that can go bad if it’s left at room temperature (like meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, and open jars of mayonnaise).

  • Check the settings on your refrigerator and freezer. Set the temperatures to:
    • 40 °F or below for the refrigerator
    • 0 °F or below for the freezer
  • Keep appliance thermometers in the refrigerator and freezer to make sure they are staying at the correct temperatures.
  • Throw away food that’s been left at room temperature for more than 2 hours. If it’s a hot day (over 90 °F), throw away food left out for more than 1 hour.

Use foods that need to be kept in the refrigerator (dairy, meat, poultry, seafood, fruits, and vegetables) before they spoil and are unsafe to eat.

Find out how long foods can be stored in the refrigerator or freezer.

Stay safe from food poisoning when you eat out.
These tips can help you enjoy healthy, safe meals away from home:

  • See if a restaurant looks clean before you even sit down. If the restaurant doesn’t look and smell clean, eat somewhere else.
  • Order your food fully cooked (well-done), especially if it’s meat, poultry, fish, or eggs. Cooking kills germs.
  • To be safe, hot food needs to be served hot, and cold food needs to be served cold. Send back your dish if it’s the wrong temperature.

Losing Weight: Questions for the doctor

Losing weight is never easy. Talk to your doctor or nurse about how to lose weight in a healthy way that’s right for you.

Because of the Affordable Care Act, insurance plans must cover screening and counseling for obesity. Depending on your insurance, you may be able to get these services at no cost to you. Talk to your insurance company to learn more.

What do I ask the doctor?

It helps to write down questions for the doctor or nurse ahead of time. Print out this list of questions and take it with you to your appointment. You may want to ask a family member or close friend to go with you to take notes.

  • How does my weight affect my health?
  • Do I have a health problem that is causing me to be overweight?
  • How will losing weight help me?
  • What is a healthy weight for me?
  • How much weight do I need to lose?
  • How long should it take me to lose weight?
  • What are healthy ways to lose weight and keep it off?
  • How can I change my eating habits?
  • What kinds of physical activity do I need to do?
  • Could a weight-loss program help me?
  • What type of weight-loss program would you recommend for me?