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Who Should Get A Genetic Test For Breast Cancer?

Correction 5/15/2013: A previous version on this story stated that Jolie had a one in 87 chance of getting breast cancer when in fact she had an 87 percent chance.

Now, the public knows about Angelina Jolie’s double mastectomy. She wrote in the New York Times that, thanks to genetic testing, she believed there was an 87 percent chance she’d get breast cancer, so she went for it.

Tuesday, Dr. Julie Gralow, director of breast medical oncology at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance spoke with KUOW's Sara Lerner.  Dr. Gralow says, “The majority of breast cancer in the United States is not gene-mutation cancer.”

Who should get tested then? Dr. Gralow looks for certain factors when encouraging a patient to consider a genetic test, such as breast cancers that occur at a young age, women who have had breast cancer before, and women with many family members who’ve had breast cancer.

Dr. Gralow says she helped bring Dr. Mary-Claire King  to Seattle more than 20 years ago. Dr. King discovered the BRCA1 gene that lets some women assess their susceptibility to breast cancer.  Dr. Gralow says, "It was an exciting time. A new era!" She's still in touch with the family of the first woman she helped with genetic testing.